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San Marcos Man's Family Says Lack of Access to Medical Care Was Detrimental in Fight Against COVID-19

“My dad really was the foundation of that unity and that love,” daughter said

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A San Marcos father of four died from COVID-19, and his family said he had no underlying conditions and struggled to get medical attention, reports NBC 7’s Melissa Adan.

A San Marcos man's family is devastated following his death from the coronavirus, and they say better access to healthcare could have made the difference between life and death.

“He was an inspiration," Areli Noemi Navarro Arroyo said about her father, Hector Navarro Lopez. "He was someone I looked up to, and he was someone who made me feel safe."

Hector was originally from Mexico and married his high school sweetheart, Noemi Arroyo Ramirez. The couple later immigrated to California.

Areli is Hector's oldest daughter. She described him as hard-working and a visionary.

“My siblings agree: He was an engineer without a title,” Areli said.

In late May, the 52-year-old father began to feel mild symptoms, so he and his wife, Noemi, visited North County Health Services clinic in San Marcos, now known as TrueCare. Noemi told NBC 7 they were turned away despite her husband reporting he had a fever the night before.

The next day, Noemi said, a doctor called and told Hector to stay home until his COVID-19 test results came in. For five days, he isolated in his bedroom while his wife of 27 years cared for him.

“I thought, 'I'll see -- tomorrow will be a great day; it will be better because he doesn't have a fever anymore,' ” Noemi said.

Unfortunately, Hector's condition took a turn, and the next morning, Noemi called 911. The father of four was taken in an ambulance, in which, she said, he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Hector Navarro Lopez, 52, leaves behind his wife and four children, Areli, 24; Hector, 22; Miranda, 18; and Axel, 15.

Noemi said that she feels that healthcare workers make a commitment to treat their patients and that, in her eyes, this promise, this commitment, was broken. 

“Honestly it’s been four months already, and it’s hard, and as more time passes, it gets more hard,” Noemi said. “For me, [North County Health Services] broke the promise they made.”

Noemi wishes her husband would have been treated in person or had access to medicine or another follow-up. In a statement, TrueCare said that, as more has been learned about the virus, it has changed its treatment plans.

Noemi Arroyo Ramirez and her two daughters during an interview with NBC 7 Melissa Adan

“I understand that this coronavirus was something that took everybody by surprise and nobody knew how to handle it without information,” Areli said. “But at the same time, that shouldn’t mean that you treat others differently or you view them differently because they're just as scared as you are.”

Hector leaves behind his wife and four children, Areli, 24; Hector, 22; Miranda, 18; and Axel, 15.

“He’s not Hector Navarro who formed a lovely family in the community and was involved in the [kids' lives] -- he was just a number for them, and [he's] not a number,” Noemi said. “The people who pass away with this are not just a number.”

For the family, they lost their champion.

“He was a great husband, and not just because he passed away but because I would always say, 'If I [had] another life and I met him, I would be married with him again,” Noemi said.

In a statement sent to NBC 7, TrueCare said, "COVID has hit our community hard and has been a tragic situation for so many families. Our hearts and our condolences go out to those families, especially to Hector Navarro Lopez's family and his wife, Noemi. It’s a serious disease that affects everyone in different ways and conditions can change rapidly, which is why it's critical to adhere to the advice of medical professionals, especially with emergency care instruction."

In addition, clinic officials said all employees and patients are now screened for their temperature before entering the building. They also said they do not allow anyone with a temperature more than 100 degrees inside. Instead, the clinic said, a team member will assist the patient with a fever in getting a virtual appointment.