Dad Reunites With Family After Year-Long Hospitalization Over COVID, Heart Attack and More

Lopez contracted COVID-19, was intubated, contracted bacteremia, had a heart attack, and a gastrointestinal bleed. He also had to have heart valve surgery.

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After a year of being hospitalized and battling various illnesses, from a heart attack to bacteremia, a Northern California father of four was finally reunited with his family after being forced to isolate over COVID-19.

Rogelio Lopez had his wish come true on his 38th birthday when he was able to see his four children, all younger than 13, again in person. 

“Rogelio smiled as his four kids caressed and hugged him, as it had been more than a year since they had seen their father, all together, in person,” said Yesenia Ramos, a UC Davis resident physician, in a news release. “The doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and others tearfully watched this touching reunion.” 

Lopez was met outside UC Davis Medical Center by his family in an emotional gathering coordinated by his sister, Lourdes Lopez. His children are 6, 9, 11 and 13 years old.

In December 2020, Lopez went to the Sacramento County Health Center complaining of puffy legs, a swollen stomach and shortness of breath after returning from a trip to Mexico.

Lopez, who also suffers from diabetes and kidney problems, was sent to the emergency room by Lisandra Franco, a primary care doctor.

In a matter of days, Lopez found himself undergoing dialysis. 


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Lopez contracted COVID-19, was intubated, contracted bacteremia, had a heart attack, and a gastrointestinal bleed. He also had to have heart valve surgery.

“He’s definitely gone through a lot of challenges while he’s been in the hospital,” Franco said in the news release. “He’s still trying to get better every day for his children, and it’s really touching to see that.” 

Outside the UC Davis Medical Center, Lopez’s children stood around their father as a mariachi played the Spanish birthday song “Las Mañanitas." 

After being placed on a portable ventilator, Lopez was able to meet his family who greeted him holding “Happy Birthday” balloons. 

“I think the nurses on Tower 6 med-surg take great pride in being able to give great care to those who have extended stays,” said Ashley Dotger, dayshift assistant nurse manager in the news release.

“It was incredible and emotional to see him laugh,” Lourdes said. “The kids didn’t want to leave, the time seemed really short to them,” she added. 

According to the release, Lopez’s sister visited his bedside every evening.

Another one of their siblings had suggested they take a mariachi as part of the celebration, but he died from COVID-19 before he was able to see his brother again. 

“It feels really good to be able to work at a place like UC Davis,” Franco said. “Obviously, medical treatment is one of the important aspects of patient care, but you can’t forget the human part of medicine, which is treating each patient with empathy and respect. UC Davis really focuses on that aspect of patient care.”

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