TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - On the morning of Sunday, April 19, Smith County via NET Health reported a third death as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The person who died was a 78-year old man from Tyler, according to NET Health.
“Saturday night on April 18th around 9:30 p.m., we got a call that my father had passed away,” said Argelia Espinoza, daughter of Nicolas Garcia, Smith County’s third COVID-19 related death.
In early April, Espinoza took her father to a UT Health East Texas clinic, and from there he was transferred to the hospital. At this point, Garcia had been sick for a total of four days. First came the cough, then the stomach virus and cold chills, then the vomiting, his family recalls.
“One of the first red flags for me was when my father couldn’t eat. He told me he felt sick and that he felt nauseated, and he loves to eat. But he wasn’t eating, and that’s when he told me how he felt; he kept saying he was tired,” said Espinoza.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person, and people are thought to be most contagious when they are symptomatic, or feeling sickest. When Garcia started feeling ill, his daughter took him to the emergency room with her brother.
Shortly after the emergency room visit, Espinoza, her brother and her sister, Imelda, who lives in Houston, got sick. Espinoza says that she was sent to the UT Health East Texas testing site, but first she had to go through a screening process so she could be tested. Since her father was a positive and hospitalized, she and her family would immediately need to go into quarantine.
“I imagine our immune systems were compromised by then because we all started having body aches, then came the stomach virus, the cold chills along with vomiting and diarrhea, but it hit us all a bit different my brother’s case was a bit milder compared to my sister and I. He would say he felt tired, would lay down and wake up feeling better,” said Espinoza.
On the afternoon of Garcia’s death, his family was allowed to visit with him briefly for an hour under a few conditions: the family had to have on full body suits, gloves, masks and shoe covers. The most important requirement was that Garcia had to be fever-free for three days, because according to the doctor that would mean he would not be contagious.
“They removed his respirator and they allowed me and my brothers and sisters, four of us in total, to spend time with my father at UT Health East Texas in Tyler on the Saturday evening before my dad passed away at 9 p.m. That meant a lot to our family in regards to how we coped with the death," Espinoza said.
Espinoza said it’s important to be cautious and take the virus seriously, because it is real, and it will leave your body weak and deteriorated.
“COVID-19 to me is like the belief in God. Some believe, and some are choosing not to believe that the disease exists, but personally I choose to believe because I have lived it firsthand and lost someone dear and close to me.” Espinoza said.
Nicolas Garcia was a 78-year-old man who immigrated to the U.S. from Piedras Negras, Mexico, in 1984. He was someone who enjoyed life and was dedicated to his family.
“For me, dad, was not only a father, he was my shopping partner. He loved to eat and eat good. He was also my mother and my father growing up because my mother abandoned us at an early age and he never remarried, so we didn’t have a stepmother to help him raise us. He later married after we were all adults,” said Espinoza.
Nicolas Garcia is survived by eight children, 22 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.