During the first week of July, Andiee Hodges noticed that her 69-year-old mother Gloria “Mims” Garcia was beginning to complain about allergies.
Hodges thought nothing of it, considering wildfire smoke was fouling the air around their home near Table Mountain Casino.
Heavy Coughing, Body Aches
A few days after that, her mom had a low fever. “She’s our mom and we let her convince us that she was OK,” said Hodges.
By the second week, her mom kept getting worse. She was congested, coughing heavily at night, and experiencing lots of body aches.
On July 13 when Hodges’ brother Ernie Garcia was taking care of their mom, he saw that she was nauseous and not able to keep food down.
Home COVID Test Showed Infection
After work Hodges stopped by a drugstore to pick up an at-home COVID-19 test for her mom that revealed an active infection.
Hodges and her brother both tested negative, but when their mom got sicker, they phoned their doctor who advised them to immediately call for an ambulance since Gloria Garcia was a high-risk patient. She was admitted to Saint Agnes Medical Center.
“She did have health issues and my brother and I were very cautious because of her. We still wore masks in public and we’ve been vaccinated since last April,” said Hodges.
Hospitalized and Placed on Ventilator
Hodges says her mother was stable that first night, but she soon took a bad turn. She needed oxygen to breathe and her blood pressure was dropping.
Gloria was put on a ventilator but her condition continued to worsen, her daughter said.
She was put on an airway pressure machine that forces oxygen into the body. For a short time, Hodges said, there was a glimmer of improvement when Gloria’s doctors were able to cut back on her supplemental oxygen.
A nurse in the intensive care unit let the siblings talk to their mother over video the following night but stressed how critical Gloria’s condition remained.
Three days after she was admitted, Gloria’s kidney’s were failing and she was about to begin dialysis when doctors called Hodges and her brother to prepare them for the possibility of difficult medical decisions ahead. Hours later, Gloria died.
“The hard part, which only people who have been through this will understand, is we never got to go in. Just to say goodbye or to hold her hand you know,” Hodges said. “These patients, they just die alone. I mean, I know there’s stuff there, but there’s no family.”
Prompt Vaccination Can Help Save a Life
Both siblings now wish they would have insisted their mother get vaccinated. Gloria had put it off because she had multiple health conditions that made it hard for her to sit and wait in lines.
“Had she been vaccinated, she’d probably be here for a little bit longer,” said Hodges.
In a statement by the siblings on both of their Facebook pages, they emphasized the seriousness of COVID-19. Although being vaccinated will not keep you from catching the virus, it will give your body a fighting chance, they said.
“Please, please encourage your loved ones, especially elderly and those with compromised systems to get vaccinated.” said both siblings. “If you or anyone you love is hesitant, feel free to share our story and do everything you can to persuade them to get vaccinated. It really is our best defense. ”
Their mother had been through a lot, Hodges said. She was diabetic, had limited mobility because she was an amputee, and was also dealing with a form of liver disease.
“She only had one leg, and when you have any kind of liver disease, you get a very big, bloated belly, so to navigate a bloated belly on one leg was really uncomfortable and hard for her,” said Hodges.
“We were making plans after she got discharged on how long it would be till she got vaccinated, and that’s when they shared that everyone in her side of the ICU was unvaccinated and that it could have really been prevented.”
Siblings Grateful for Community’s Response
The Dance Studio of Fresno, where Hodges is a dance teacher, put up a GoFundMe appeal for donations to help the family with medical and other expenses. So far, it has raised over $11,000.
The siblings are grateful for the donations they have received, and hope to hold a celebration of life honoring their mother.
“I’m totally overwhelmed by everybody’s love and generosity, it’s crazy,” Ernie Garcia said.
“We really want to honor her,” added Hodges.
The Impact of Getting Vaccinated
Both siblings see their family’s experience with COVID as a cautionary tale for those who are still unsure of whether to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
“I don’t know if this sounds crass or whatever, maybe too strong, but if you’re not vaccinated you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to dying a horrible death, you know,” Ernie Garcia said.