Alexander Albanez never could have expected this.
“I’m shocked,” Albanez said. “I don’t know. It’s like I’m numb sometimes.”
The Vista man's mother, 69-year-old Maria Albanez, who also lived in the North County City, and his sister, Cristina Albanez, 43, a Los Angeles resident, passed away due to COVID-19 within weeks of each other.
It all started in early January.
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Albanez's mother was tested for the novel coronavirus before she rang in the new year with her sister in San Diego. His mom tested negative. One week later, Albanez said, his mother started experiencing COVID-like symptoms and went to Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas on Jan. 8.
“Something happened during that week,” Albanez said. “She didn’t leave the house. We always wore a mask, sanitized, washed our hands -- do what we need to do -- so I have no idea how she got it.”
Albanez said his mother was alert when she first arrived at the hospital, but, over a couple of weeks, her condition worsened.
“My mom was a fighter, so when she got COVID, I felt like she was going to fight it to the end,” Albanez said, choking up at the memory.
In fact, Albanez said, his mother was showed signs of improvement up to just days before she died on Feb. 17.
"My mom was a fighter"
Unlike many family members, Albanez was able to visit the hospital in person and say goodbye. He said he's thankful the rest of the family had the chance to do the same -- even though, for them, it was via a video chat.
“I got the family on Zoom calls with her three or four times so she could hear us,” Albanez said. “I feel that she would hear us and I just needed her to know that we’re all still there even though we couldn’t go to the hospital. The family is still behind her.”
In a cruel twist, Alexander’s sister, Cristina, was fighting COVID-19 at the same time, but farther north. She went to a hospital in Los Angeles after having breathing problems, Albanez said, and was eventually admitted to an ICU. She died Feb. 2.
“That was extremely unexpected," Albanez said. "I would have never guessed that she would have passed that fast, in such a short period of time. I would have never guessed she would have passed in the first place.”
Albanez said he was able to visit with Cristina, too, before she passed away.
"Both hospitals gave me the ability to go in and give them our blessings and our last goodbyes," Albanez said.
Cristina was a single mother and is survived by her single child.
“[I have the] feeling that my mom is still in the hospital sleeping or my sister is still in L.A. and I’m just waiting for a call,” Albanez said. “I just can’t believe it.”
A fundraising page has been set up to support the family.