A grieving South Gate family that lost three loved ones to COVID-19 within one month has an urgent plea as California struggles to combat a pandemic that has resulted in more than 23,000 deaths statewide and left hospitals scrambling to help the sick.
Three patriarchs of the Carrillo family were always by each other’s sides. Dad Damian, his brother Juan, and Damian’s son Jose. The three filled Ana Carrillo’s heart with joy.
Now, she's heartbroken.
"Losing my uncle first, followed by my dad, and Saturday... losing my eldest brother," Ana Carrillo said.
She says all three lost their fight with COVID-19. Her father and uncle died just three days apart.
"They were meant to be together, so we celebrated together their funerals on the same day," Ana, who was Damian Carrillo’s daughter, said.
Ana spoke from her Downey home, where she said she is now isolating. She told NBC4 that her son, son-in-law and daughter have now all tested positive for COVID-19.
"We just hope people realize this is a real pandemic," Ana Carrillo said.
The emotional toll of the coronavirus has devastated many families in the nation's most populous state, which eclipsed 2 million coronavirus cases this week. The physical toll can be seen outside of Southern California hospitals where tents and mobile morgues are on standby, while ICUs are filled beyond capacity.
"I’m struggling — I’m not going to lie," admitted Tracy Pope a critical care nurse at PIH Health Hospital in Whittier.
Since loved ones can’t visit due to COVID-19 being such an especially infectious virus, Pope is often the last person dying patients see.
"That they can’t be there, can’t touch these family members, and end of life is a special time," Pope said. "I think a lot of us feel honored and privileged."
Nurses like Pope say they do everything they can to help families say good-bye, whether via Zoom or other technology. Ana Carillo said Pope provided comfort during the heart-wrenching final moments.
"Tracy, who was the ER nurse, held his hand and caressed his forehead for us," Carillo said. "And we both screamed and cried."
Pope said, "I just can’t even imagine what they’re going through and not even being able to be here — and just putting so much trust in us."
At the start of this week, more than 17,000 people were hospitalized in California with confirmed COVID-19 infections — more than double the previous peak reached in July — and a state model that uses current data to forecast future trends shows the number could reach nearly 100,000 by January. More than 3,600 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care units.
A family suffering great loss and the nurses who tried to save them offered a plea.
"Your heart breaks when you see your loved ones pass away through a camera," Ana Carrillo said. "Please stay home. Everyone stay home and save your life."
The Carrillo family has set up a GoFundMe to help during this trying time. If you would like to donate, you may do so here. Please note that GoFundMe takes a percentage of all revenue generated in the form of platform and other fees.