MAJOR COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – A 69-year-old law enforcement veteran from Ringwood died of COVID-19 just minutes before doctors were set to put him on a ventilator.
Former Major County Sherrif Tom Shaffer started showing symptoms the week before Thanksgiving.
His death comes as COVID-19 continues to spread at an uncontrollable speed in rural Oklahoma.
“Of all people, it was the toughest man I know,” Geoff Shaffer said.
To many in Northwest Oklahoma, the name Tom Shaffer automatically takes form of a real-life hometown hero, but for Geoff Shaffer, Tom was his best friend and father.
“At this age, I was not ready to be without a dad,” Geoff Shaffer said. “It doesn’t feel right. I was telling him to go to the hospital, but being the tough Oklahoma cowboy he is, he was like, ‘I am going to kick back and relax and be fine.'”
Within hours of this conversation, Tom was taken to St. Mary’s in Enid.
However, the ER was full, and the nearest open bed was 70 miles away in Alva, Okla.
Doctors told Tom he needed to go on a ventilator.
“When they started to hook him up and knock him out, his heart just stopped he was wore out,” Geoff Shaffer said. “When I saw it was the hospital calling, I jumped out of bed and thought he was doing good. I don’t know why I thought that.”
However, nurses had to break the news. Geoff’s father didn’t make it through the night.
“I think he was just expecting, ‘I am going to go out and things are going to be better,'” Geoff Shaffer said.
COVID-19 continues to tear through Tom’s neck of the woods. According to a map from the New York Times, cases per capita are climbing in Northwest Oklahoma.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, zero cities in the Northwest Region have passed a mask mandate.
The closest city with a mask mandate is Enid.
“He wore his mask,” Geoff Shaffer said. “He was cautious.”
Tom will always be remembered as an Oklahoma staple.
He won a State Basketball Championship for Ringwood in the 60s. Sheriff Shaffer also served his community in law enforcement for 21 years.
“I have got a big legacy to live up to,” Geoff Shaffer said. “God could not have given me a better dad than he did.”