As you grow up a little, settling down with someone special and having children may be on your mind. And while raising kids can be exhausting, it’s often exceptionally rewarding, too. But even when things may all appear to be going well, life has a tendency to throw curveballs. And just when Gary Mencl, his wife, Angela, and their young clan seemed to have it all, their happy family life was swiftly shattered.
Residents of North Bend, Oregon, Gary and Angela were the proud parents of four children named Alex, Taylor, Jaylee and Landon. In the years before he had become a dad, though, Gary had been very much focused on his education – and it had seemed as though he had a firm grasp on what he wanted to do in the future.
Yes, Gary had apparently set his sights on becoming a dentist, with this aspiration ultimately taking him to Pennsylvania. Then, while studying in the Keystone State, he had first crossed paths with his future wife, Angela. And after the pair had wed and become parents four times over, they and their children settled down in North Bend – blissfully unaware of the misfortune that fate had in store for them.
In September 2018 all appeared to be going well for Gary and the Mencl family, too. And on one day during that month, the 39-year-old father had gone about his usual routine by heading into work, where he was scheduled to carry out a root canal on a patient. While conducting the procedure, however, his own health took a sharp turn for the worse.
Had Gary always wanted to be a dentist? Well, it seemed to have been an ambition he had harbored ever since his younger years. Before the dad embarked on the path to becoming fully qualified, however, he had grown up in a family only a little larger than the clan of which he was a part back in September 2018.
Gary – who was born in Pocatello, Idaho – was raised by parents Carol and John Mencl along with five other brothers and sisters. And the Mencl clan had somewhat of a peripatetic existence, with the seven setting up home in both Nevada and Oregon during Gary’s formative years.
Then, following his graduation from South Salem High School, Gary moved on to college, earning a place at Oregon State University. There, the student took classes in both chemistry and biology. And thanks to his hard work over that period, he went on to receive diplomas in the two subjects.
But even after leaving college, the young man knew that he had to continue his studies. At that point, you see, he had his eyes on a potential career as a dentist. And in order to realize that ambition, the postgraduate student subsequently secured a place at Philadelphia’s Temple University School of Dentistry.
Gary’s romantic life would take a promising turn, too. Yes, during his time at the college, the trainee dentist first made the acquaintance of a woman named Angela Jenkins. And after that initial meeting, the pair would go on to fall in love.
Then, in the summer of 2009, Gary and Angela took the next step in their relationship by tying the knot in a Utah church. The newlyweds had to return to Philadelphia after that, owing to Gary’s commitments at the university – but they wouldn’t be in the city forever.
Yes, following Gary’s graduation from Temple University School of Dentistry, he and Angela packed their bags for Klamath Falls, Oregon. He also earned his first job in dentistry at that time and worked in the position for the next half a decade. Then in 2017 the married couple made another significant move when they chose to buy a house in North Bend.
As Gary continued to establish himself as a dentist, however, he became something of a family man as well. Together with Angela, they welcomed four children into the world, with son Landon and daughter Jaylee arriving in quick succession. Then, three years later, baby Taylor was born.
And Gary and Angela added one more face to their family with the birth of baby Alex. Naturally, then, when Gary wasn’t looking into mouths for a living, he spent valuable time with his young clan. The dad shared his passion for the great outdoors with his children, too.
So, all things considered, Gary’s life appeared to be in a good place in 2018. Back then, he was employed by the South Coast Family Dentistry practice in North Bend. And one fateful September day, he arrived for his shift as normal, ready to carry out a routine procedure.
No one could have predicted what happened next, however. During the root canal, Gary began to feel pains in his torso, with the discomfort prompting him to pick up the phone and call Angela at home. And, later on, the dentist’s wife recounted everything that transpired following the conversation in an article for the lifestyle website Love What Matters.
“My healthy, 39-year-old husband called me from work,” Angela recalled in her piece. “He was performing a root canal when he felt ‘off.’ He asked me to drive him to the hospital because he thought he was having a heart attack.” And with that terrifying prospect looming large, the mom quickly sprang into action.
Angela had been at home with two of her children at the time of Gary’s call, and so she subsequently tried to get in touch with one of the neighbors. The mom had hoped to drop the kids off there, you see, before heading to the medical facility. But when she received no response, Angela found herself with no other option than to load the youngsters into her vehicle and drive off.
“Once we realized that Gary was going to be in the ER for a while, I had a friend come and get the kids,” Angela wrote. “I didn’t want them to have to be there and witness all the chaos.” Then, in the hours after the children had been collected, their mother faced an agonizing and lonely vigil as she waited for any updates on her husband’s condition.
Angela recounted to Love What Matters, “After hours in the ER, the doctor met me in the hall with tears in her eyes. I pointed my finger at her and told her to tell me right now what [was] wrong with my husband. The words she uttered took my breath away. [The doctor said of Gary,] ‘He has a tear in his aorta. It is catastrophic.’”
Then, after receiving that devastating news, Angela went to see Gary in his hospital bed. The dentist was still awake at that time, meaning his wife could tell him exactly what had happened. Gary couldn’t afford to panic, though, as that could potentially cause yet more damage to his heart.
Angela explained, “[Gary] couldn’t freak out, but that didn’t stop me from falling to the floor and crying as hospital personnel walked around me. It was determined he would need to be life-flighted to a hospital in Portland more equipped for the severity of his surgery.” But while Gary was prepped ready to be transported, the mom received some calming words that may just have helped keep her spirits up.
“Sam, the life-flight nurse, grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes,” Angela wrote. “He told me that his job was to keep Gary alive. He told me he was great at his job, and he had confidence in delivering my husband safely to skilled surgeons that would fix him.”
Following that pep talk from the nurse, Angela prepared to say goodbye to Gary before he was loaded into the helicopter. And given how serious the dentist’s condition was, the pair also attempted to record a message from Gary for their children. Once the record button had been pressed, however, Gary was too overcome with emotion at the prospect of bidding farewell to his sons and daughter.
Then, with everything in place, Gary’s journey to Portland, Oregon, began. Angela, meanwhile, traveled to the medical facility by car in a trip that took around four hours. And while she was out on the road, Sam kept her up to date with the situation in the sky as well.
Following the helicopter ride, Gary was also given a chance to speak to Angela on Sam’s cell phone ahead of the operation. “I told Gary he was my most favorite person ever, and that I loved him so much,” his partner recalled. And by the time that she arrived at the hospital, the dentist’s surgery was already under way.
“When I got to the hospital waiting room, two nurses came out, crying,” Angela wrote on Love What Matters. “‘Is [Gary] DEAD?’ I screamed. They quickly reassured me [that] he was still alive, on bypass and in surgery. They told me the longer he was in surgery the better, and they drew me a diagram of where the dissection was.”
Angela had a pressing question for the hospital staff, however. She continued, “I asked them if [Gary] was going to be okay. They couldn’t answer me. The minutes went by in slow motion. I couldn’t eat or sleep. At this point, my two beautiful friends showed up to be with me.”
Angela’s family were en route to Portland at that stage and hoping to get there in the morning. In the meantime, though, the mom would need to wait for another eight hours before she received the next update on Gary’s condition. And while the clock ticked, she decided to grab the attention of the nurses.
Then, after being summoned from the operating room, the hospital staff informed Angela that Gary’s procedure had been a success. Naturally, the dentist’s wife was absolutely delighted with the news. Yet while Angela initially believed that her husband would make a recovery, tragically that didn’t prove to be the case.
Angela told Love What Matters, “[The surgeon] informed me that Gary was conscious entering the OR, but as soon as they got him under anesthesia, his aorta tore completely, and he coded. They performed CPR as they were opening him, but he was without oxygen for five minutes. [The surgeon] told me it was a miracle he even got [Gary] this far.”
Angela was also told that Gary would suffer with “severe cognitive and physical disabilities” if he managed to stir from his coma. And ahead of some other required medical procedures, Gary’s traumatized spouse therefore visited his room to give him his own pep talk. “I sat next to his lifeless body and encouraged him to keep fighting, [saying] that I would never be okay without him,” Angela later wrote.
Unbelievably, though, things only got worse for Angela when her family finally arrived in Portland. She continued, “My mom showed up and she was hysterical. She immediately pulled me out into the hall and said, ‘Your sister died last night.’ It took a few minutes before my brain could register the words my mom was speaking.”
Then, with that awful revelation still ringing in Angela’s ears, a physician provided an additional update on Gary’s condition. And, unfortunately for everyone concerned, it wasn’t a positive announcement. Instead, the doctor suggested that the family should prepare to say their final words to the Idaho native before he slipped away.
Angela detailed her last few minutes with Gary in her piece for Love What Matters, writing, “I went into the hospital room as the neurologist performed multiple tests to check for brain activity. Tears filled the neurologist’s eyes as I looked at him and said, ‘He is gone, isn’t he?’ Yes. He was gone.”
Following that heartbreaking moment, Landon, Jaylee, Alex and Taylor went to see their dad one final time. Angela also stayed with Gary until the life-support equipment was switched off. “The man showed up to take his body to the hospital morgue,” she continued.
Angela recalled, “I looked at [the man] directly and said, ‘I know to you [Gary] is just another body. But to me and my children, this body means everything. Please take good care of him.’ He reassured me he would and gave me a hug.” In the wake of the double tragedy, though, there was at least a small silver lining.
To try and help the bereaved relatives, a friend of Angela’s set up a GoFundMe page with a target of $50,000. And to date, the fundraising effort has brought in almost $36,000 in donations, with more than 400 users contributing to the total.
Gary’s funeral, meanwhile, was held on the morning of September 14, 2018, in Sandy, Utah, before the dentist was laid to rest at Larkin Sunset Gardens Cemetery. And for those back in Oregon, a remembrance ceremony was set for the following week at a North Bend church.
Now, following an offer from her brother-in-law, Angela resides in West Jordan, Utah, with her young family. After the two tragedies, Gary’s sister’s spouse had invited the clan to move into a newly renovated apartment that had been put together in his old basement. And the gesture was certainly appreciated by Angela – even though she dubbed it “option B.”
What’s more, in spite of all that had happened, Angela managed to end her Love What Matters story on a positive note. She concluded, “You better believe I will do everything to make sure option B is worth living. I am doing this for my sister, my husband, my kids and, most importantly, me. I deserve a beautiful life, and I have the ability to create it.”
Yes, Angela’s outlook on life after suffering such a devastating and sudden loss is truly inspiring. Her words will hopefully help others who have endured similar pain, too. One such person is Cheryl Bennett Wiygul, who went through her own heartbreaking ordeal in July 2019. And much like Angela, the Florida native used her grief to share a poignant message with the world.
Spending a day at the beach can be fun whatever your age. And whether you choose to just soak up some rays or to take a dip in the cool blue ocean, hopefully all that you’ll take back with you are some good memories – and perhaps some sand in your shoes. For Cheryl Bennett Wiygul, though, her trip to the beach had catastrophic – and heartbreaking – consequences.
Residents of Memphis, Tennessee, Dave Bennett and his wife had gone to see their daughter, Wiygul, in Niceville, Florida. Then, after getting together, the family spent a fun day out in Destin to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend – and enjoyed plenty of time in the water to boot.
Bennett and his relatives eventually returned to Wiygul’s home following their spell at the beach. And apparently the dad was in good spirits; by the end of the day he was relaxing on his own, catching a late-night movie on TV. Yet everything would change just a few hours later.
In the early morning, Bennett appeared to develop a fever ahead of his return trip to Memphis. The family patriarch, who was also battling cancer at that time, was therefore taken to a local hospital on his way home. And as the staff checked Bennett over, they discovered something ominous: a dark, inflamed sore on his back.
Before Bennett’s health took a turn for the worse, though, he was out enjoying what summer has to offer. And the season is often the best of the year; thanks to the warmer weather, it’s much more pleasant to kick back and relax with loved ones outdoors.
Naturally, then, beaches are particularly popular during the summer months – not least because there’s the option of splashing around and cooling down in the ocean. However, depending on where you live, some beaches aren’t just busy from June to August. In places such as Florida, you see, warm temperatures are fairly consistent throughout much of the year.
And in Florida, one area in particular remains a big draw. The state’s Emerald Coast continues to be a popular spot for tourists because of its number of beautiful locales, from Niceville to Pensacola – many of which boast sparkling waters and spotless sands.
The city of Destin, which is also located on the Emerald Coast, earns its fair share of visitors, too. In fact, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has revealed that a whopping 80 percent of the region’s annual tourists make a beeline for the attractive Okaloosa County destination.
And in June 2019 Indiana-based Kylei Brown and her family were just some of the many heading to Destin for some rest and relaxation. Naturally, the clan visited one of the city’s beaches during that trip, too. The following day, though, the 12-year-old noted an ache in her right leg that steadily got worse.
Then, a further 24 hours on, Brown’s leg began to show signs of being inflamed, while the youngster herself also displayed fever-like symptoms. But while Brown’s family ultimately had to head home, upon their return the girl was taken to a local hospital – and while there, she received a disturbing diagnosis.
Alarmingly, Brown had picked up a dangerous bacteria during her time away in Destin, with this then triggering a flesh-eating infection called necrotizing fasciitis in her leg. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this particular condition can be lethal regardless of how it’s treated.
The CDC’s website explains, “Necrotizing fasciitis can lead to sepsis, shock and organ failure. It can also result in life-long complications from loss of limbs or severe scarring due to surgically removing infected tissue. Even with treatment, up to one in three people with necrotizing fasciitis die from the infection.”
Thankfully for Brown, she managed to survive her ordeal following a number of operations – although her treatment is far from over yet. The preteen’s mom believes that she caught the bacteria through a cut in her leg that she had acquired prior to her trip to Destin. And, unsurprisingly, when the troubling story hit the headlines, it left some concerned.
Wiygul had heard about Brown’s case, for one, and that had prompted her to do a bit of digging on the subject of necrotizing fasciitis. After all, her parents were due in town soon, and her father’s health had already been compromised.
Yes, as Bennett was battling cancer at that time, his daughter was a little worried that he may be susceptible to the bacteria. And sadly for Wiygul, her fears were well placed. A short time after her parents’ visit, she wrote a lengthy message on Facebook explaining everything that had transpired in the wake of the vacation.
“There is not enough education out there about the bacteria in the water,” Wiygul said on the social media website. “There needs to be signs posted at every beach, every city and state park and every bayou stating… ‘Due to naturally occurring bacteria in the water, people with open wounds or compromised immune systems should not enter.’”
Wiygul continued, “I knew about the open wounds. Many people I’ve talked to don’t. They think saltwater is good for cuts. Saltwater alone may be, but the bacteria enters through cuts.” And from there, she switched her focus back to Bennett, noting the concerns she’d had prior to his trip to Florida.
In particular, Wiygul touched upon Bennett’s previous health issues. She explained, “My dad had cancer, therefore his immune system was compromised.” Nevertheless, she added of her father, “He’s battled cancer for many years and has been in the water several times, so it didn’t seem like a risk.”
Then Wiygul spoke about Brown’s ordeal in Destin – the news story that had sparked her initial fears about her dad. Details of the 12-year-old’s brush with necrotizing fasciitis had emerged just a few days before her parents had arrived in Niceville for the Fourth of July holiday.
“I didn’t want to believe [what happened to Brown],” Wiygul admitted. “My family loves being in the water. Our county, Okaloosa County, posted an article titled ‘Rumor Control’ in response to the post which seemed to diffuse everyone’s fears. The girl had a cut on her leg, so I felt like it reinforced to me not to go in with a cut.”
And following Bennett’s arrival, his wife and daughter took every precaution they could to protect him. Using sunscreen and liquid bandages, Wiygul ensured that her dad’s cuts and grazes were “super sealed up” before kicking off the weekend. Then, after that, they went on to enjoy a pretty lively trip.
Wiygul continued, “We had a blast. We were out in the bay on the boat near Crab Island, went to the beach in Destin twice, splashed around Turkey Creek [and] swam in Boggy Bayou [and] in our pool. Then on Friday, we spent the day at Rocky Bayou riding jet skis and throwing the ball around in the water.”
Then, finally, Wiygul and her family made their way back to her house, with Bennett in particularly good spirits. Wiygul later recalled on Facebook, “We left [at] around 4:00 p.m. Daddy stayed up late Friday night and watched a movie. He was happy and talkative, seemed to feel fine as he did all week.”
However, Bennett’s condition took a sudden turn in the early hours of the morning. According to Wiygul, this was around “12 hours after” she and her relatives had been enjoying themselves in the Florida water. And much as had been the case with Brown, her father had displayed fever-like symptoms when he woke up along with some aches and pains.
“My parents had planned to head back to Memphis that morning anyway,” Wiygul explained on the social media website. “And my mom wanted [Bennett] to be near his doctors to have him checked out. He’d been sick before, and they knew his history, so it seemed like the best thing to do.”
Unfortunately for Bennett, though, his condition only deteriorated on the trip back. Wiygul wrote on Facebook, “His legs started to hurt severely. He was becoming extremely uncomfortable. My dad has been through a lot and he is not a complainer, so he had to have been in a lot of pain to vocalize it.”
So, Bennett’s wife drove him to the Baptist Memorial Hospital, located in their hometown of Memphis. And when the couple arrived at the facility in the evening, the staff admitted Wiygul’s dad straight away. When the true cause of Bennett’s condition was discovered, however, it may have come as a shock.
Wiygul revealed, “As [the staff] were helping [Bennett] get changed into his hospital gown, they saw this terribly swollen black spot on his back that was not there before. My mom sent me a picture of it, and it felt like someone sucker-punched me. I called and asked if it was actually black, and she said it was black.”
At that point, Wiygul looked back at what happened to Brown. Yes, given everything that she had read about that story, the Niceville resident was fairly certain that Bennett was suffering from the same thing. And thanks to that knowledge, she implored her mother to tell the staff that her dad had necrotizing fasciitis.
“One person told [my mom] the media had blown that [story] out of proportion,” Wiygul continued on Facebook. “Others said it was [a staph infection]. They would not biopsy it. They did start [Bennett] on IV antibiotics. [But] the black spot had doubled in size. A new one was starting to pop up.”
Bennett’s problems didn’t end there, though. Wiygul wrote, “At 1:00 a.m. he became septic, and they moved him into [the] ICU. He coded shortly after, and they had to bring him back. My dad had a lot of medical issues, but [his] heart was not one of them. They had to intubate him. He coded again.”
But following those close calls, Wiygul’s family would receive some devastating news about Bennett’s condition. His daughter added on Facebook, “They said his organs were too damaged and his blood was too acidic to sustain life. He was gone by Sunday afternoon. Less than 48 hours after getting out of the water feeling great, the bacteria had destroyed him.”
And a few days on from their tragic loss, Bennett’s family got some answers from the hospital in Memphis. According to their results, his necrotizing fasciitis had brought on by another dangerous bacteria called vibrio vulnificus. People normally acquire vibrio vulnificus by either consuming raw shellfish or by through exposed cuts.
Then Wiygul went on to make a heartbreaking revelation in her Facebook post. She said, “I knew you shouldn’t swim with an open wound, but I didn’t realize [that my dad] shouldn’t be in the water with his immune system. I feel like I should have known – and that is something I will live with for the rest of my life.”
Yet Wiygul would raise an intriguing point about the overall lack of knowledge relating to the bacteria. She wrote, “If I would have done more research I would have [known about the danger], but I don’t think the general public realizes it either.”
Wiygul continued, “I do believe if there was a simple sign posted about the risk of swimming with an open wound or an immune disorder, we wouldn’t have let [my dad] get in. [But] I am absolutely not trying to scare people from the beach or swimming. I love the water, and so did my dad.”
After that, Wiygul had one last thing to say on the matter. She explained, “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I don’t need anyone to tell me what we should or should not have done. We already know. It was too late for us. Please just pass this on so it can help someone else.”
And Wiygul’s emotional words have since made a big impact on Facebook. Her post went viral, in fact, earning over 9,000 likes and more than 35,000 shares. The powerful story also generated over 300 comments – many of which were supportive of the bereaved daughter.
Perhaps one message in particular stood out from the rest, though. A Facebook user posting in response to Wiygul’s warning revealed that they had known Bennett from many years ago – and with that in mind, the news may have come as something of a shock.
“So sorry about your dad,” the social media user wrote. “I went to high school with him. So tragic. [I’m] sure we don’t hear half of [these] cases. Thanks for sounding the alarm out of your grief.” And, hopefully, Wiygul’s tale will at least make some think twice before they choose to take to the water in future.