The Faces of COVID-19: Families share their loss

Posted at 10:44 PM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 06:47:23-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It’s been 10 months since Leticia Mondragon's mom died, but the wound is far from healed.

"I wasn’t ready to let her go," she said. "I wasn't ready to let her go. And I said 'No, one more day,' and kept praying for a miracle. Maybe, (I thought), my mom will survive.”

But the COVID-19 virus had significantly lowered Elvia Mondragon's oxygen-saturation levels.

Soon, Leticia was forced to make the difficult decision of removing the woman who had raised her from life support.

"They go 'Do you want to put her in comfort care?' " she said. "And I said 'Oh, I don’t know.' I said 'What does that mean?' "

It meant that her mother's condition wasn't expected to improve.

"I said 'How long would she last after that? Do you know if she will survive? How long will she survive?' " she said. "I asked the doctor, one more time 'Will my mom turn around and get better and survive?' And he said: 'I’ve never seen a virus like this in the 20 years I’ve practiced. I’ve never seen a virus like this."

Elvia had not received the vaccine against the COVID-19 virus. She would have, Leticia said, but it wasn't readily available until two weeks after she died.

"They took the BiPAP off and she was gone in seconds," she said. "Two days before Thanksgiving."

The cause of death? Acute respiratory failure due to COVID-19.

“It’s hard," she said. "My mother was my best friend and my confidant. There was not a day that I wouldn’t talk to my mother. There’s a big void in my life. I have this pain in my heart.”

Leticia says she has a constant reminder of this virus. And a reminder of people who don't get the vaccine.

The Faces of COVID-19 Pt. 1

The same can be said for the family of Jason Merino, a Corpus Christi artist known as Merk Rock.

Merino died of COVID-19 on Aug. 24. A man with so much life to live who didn't get to live as long as his loved ones would have liked.

He was an artist and a son.

"He loved people, in general, you know," said his father Larry Lopez. "He wanted everyone to be at peace."

He was a brother, mentor and friend to some.

"He was a brother to me," said his friend Fred Torres. "He made me want to be a better father to my kids. He made me want to be a better artist. He made me want to be a better man. Period."

An inspiration and a role model to others.

"He just always taught me to be strong-minded," said his friend Ruben Castillo. "And, that when real life gets in the way, he always just taught us to be strong-minded about things."

His biggest role, however, was being a dad -- just ask his daughter Saphire Merino.

"He was an amazing dad," she said. "An amazing artist and someone you can look up to."

Jason's sister Vanessa Lopez said he was not vaccinated because he was "iffy" about getting the shot.

How she wishes he would have gotten the vaccine, she said -- maybe things would be different.

"Never did we think wed lose my brother," she said. "Seeing my brother in that state because of COVID-19 is not something you'd want to see."

Jason may be gone, but he is certainly not forgotten -- a mural on Ayers Street has been painted in his memory.