“The biggest moment in my life was the day I got the phone call. The doctor called and said, ‘Mr. Mendoza your wife, at any moment, is going to pass away.’ That is the closest I was going to be with her when she passed was on the telephone. I went outside and dropped to my knees and started praying.”
Four months ago, life was going as planned for the Mendoza family. Jose and Georgina Mendoza, who were both born and raised in Port Lavaca, were blessed with four children and two grandchildren. The couple was living life to its fullest even after the beginning of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic began. Their world as they knew it began to crumble while most were celebrating the Fourth of July holiday.
The couple had taken the pandemic seriously and had been practicing all recommended safety precautions. They wore masks in public places, used hand sanitizer, and avoided big crowds. They thought they were safe until the mild symptoms began. The couple spent a few days in bed, taking it easy and getting much-needed rest while hoping the symptoms were not COVID-19 related and it would pass.
“I will never forget the feeling. It was a Sunday morning, and we both just felt different, not right. We were both suffering from headaches and extreme fatigue,” said Jose, 39, known to his friends as Cookie.
Jose is a diabetic, and his symptoms worsened fast, and he was admitted into the Memorial Medical Center Intensive Care Unit. One day later, Georgina, known to her friends and family as Chochee, 42, who suffered from high blood pressure, was admitted into MMC ICU as well.
The next day, Chochee was released to go home, but it was very short-lived. Only a few hours later, she was admitted back into MMC that evening with breathing problems. She was given oxygen to no avail and was later intubated.
Jose was given the all-clear several days later and was released to go home and begin the quarantine process until his tests came back negative for COVID-19. With two school-aged children in the house, he remained in the back room while his young daughters, ages 7 and 16, stayed with family and only entered the front rooms of the home.
Chochee remained in the hospital in a medically induced coma while hospital personnel searched for an empty bed as her symptoms worsened, and she required more advanced medical care. Approximately one week later, she was taken by life flight to St. David’s North Hospital in Austin.
At that point, Chochee was diagnosed with bi-lateral corona pneumonia and remained in a coma for the next two months. The virus began attacking her kidneys, causing them to shut down, and she was on dialysis around the clock. Cookie said he was very scared for his family during this dark time. His biggest fear was that of having to live his life without Chochee.
After many prayers, Chochee’s kidneys began to respond to dialysis, and she woke from the coma. Soon after, she was no longer intubated and was placed on a trachea tube instead. She began physical and speech therapy. She could no longer walk or talk. On Sept. 28, the family was overjoyed as she was released from the hospital to go home with the help of home health care.
Cookie, who was employed as a contractor, now takes care of his wife daily with the help of home health care twice a week.
“She (Chochee) is glad to be home but has a very long road to recovery. Every day is the same. My alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m., and I change her catheter. I get the girls off to school, make breakfast, give her the insulin shots since she has diabetes since the virus, and all of her medications,” said Cookie. “I make meals, and she has some function in one arm, and she tries to feed herself. I clean her and take her to her doctor’s appointments and try to keep her spirits up. She gets depressed sometimes.”
Cookie said he is not sure where he and his wife contracted the virus, but he assumes it was somewhere together as they both came down with symptoms at the same time. When asked what advice he has to those who have not been affected by COVID-19, he said, “Please take it serious. It is real.”
The couple’s four children are Jesse Adrian Mendoza, Jose Adrian Mendoza, Maria Mendoza, and Eezabella Mendoza. Cookie said the community has been a tremendous help with monetary donations, bake sales, benefits, and mainly, prayers.