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'This is real,' says teen mourning COVID-positive father
Since her parents' divorce five years ago, Yaqueline Martinez and her father had not been close.
That distance was made greater by the miles that separated them. Yaqueline, now 19, lives in Valley, Texas, with her mother and younger brother; her father, 39-year-old Miguel Martinez, lived in McPherson, Kansas.
Still, she was concerned when she received a text from him saying that he had tested positive for COVID-19 was quarantined at home and relieved that he "felt fine."
That abruptly changed a week later when her uncle called, saying that her father was in critical condition at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita.
Miguel, who had been on the road to recovery, had suffered a stroke in the middle of the night and collapsed. Although generally considered a lung infection, COVID-19 has been found to cause blood clots that can lead to severe strokes, even in those whose symptoms are mild.
His girlfriend called 911 and Miguel was taken by ambulance to McPherson Hospital, where he was intubated and placed on a ventilator and then transported to St. Francis, which offers the most advanced stroke care and had a dedicated COVID-19 ICU.
Miguel was in the interventional radiology lab having the clot occluding his left vertebral artery when Yaquline received the call. Yaqueline, along with her mother and brother, packed and left for Kansas to be at his side.
When they arrived, they learned that despite having successfully removed that clot and a second one discovered in a different area, his brain was continuing to swell and a neurological assessment showed indications of brain death.
Although just barely an adult, Yaqueline had a decision to make as the closest next of kin: Whether to continue futile medical intervention or remove life support so that his family could be at his side in his final moments.
"It was a really hard decision mostly because there was a lot of hope rising and nobody wants to take that hope away from anybody," she says. She, too, continued to have hope for a miracle.
After many prayers and with the support of her mother, brother and a compassionate care team, Yaqueline came to a decision: "He would go in peace with us all there."
On July 29, Miguel died with his mother, girlfriend and his oldest daughter, son and their mother at his bedside.
Says Yaqueline: "I felt like it was a miracle to have the opportunity to set our peace and talk to him one last time.”
In her thank you note to his care team, she wrote, "Throughout the process, I experienced great miracles and your support was one...You gave us support and comfort and when we were most in need of a hug and we couldn't be anymore appreciative of it."
As for others, she wants them to know as she prepares to return to Texas with her father’s ashes, “This is real. Some people just don't react until they are going through it. I hope by that time it's not too late."