A South Bay family is dealing with the tragic reality of just how deadly the coronavirus can be after Luis Martinez passed away from COVID-19 complications with the mother of his child unable to be by his side because of issues at the border.
In pictures and in videos, the 41-year-old Martinez couldn’t hide his elation at becoming a father. One photograph shows him forming heart-shaped hands to create a silhouette on his girlfriend Janeth Retana’s baby bump. And in a video of the moment he found out Retana was pregnant, he burst into laughter while hugging her, saying, “Amor.”
The banking employee and part-time ride-sharing driver's time with his son was short-lived, however: Two weeks after Luis Jr.’s April birth, his father was admitted to the hospital with coronavirus.
“He was in good spirits but told me, 'I don’t feel that sick, but I’m having a hard time breathing," ” his cousin Julia Najera said, adding that she and Martinez talked about raising their kids together.
The doting father spent at least eight weeks in the hospital, according to his family, most of that time intubated.
Retana showed NBC 7 a copy of a letter Sharp Memorial Hospital sent her dated -- June 11, 2020 -- to help cross the border so she could visit him. Despite the letter, Retana says she was denied entry at the border and claims that Customs and Border Protection officiasls didn’t call to verify her letter.
Martinez died a week later, three days before Father's Day.
“All those dreams they had as a couple, of what their future would be like, to be taken away and not be able to be there during his last moments on earth seems wrong on so many levels,” Najera said.
The family has set up an online fundraising page to help support Retana and little Luis Jr.
As cases surge in San Diego Count, Martinez's family is urging caution.
“The little sacrifices we have to make in the longer term aren’t as big as being unsafe and losing a life or your loved one’s life,” Najera said.
NBC 7 out to Customs and Border Protection late Monday evening, after hours. Officials responded, saying that each person’s admissibility is determined on a case-by-case basis but added that they needed more information in order to comment more thoroughly.