A few weeks ago, Lydia Rodriguez thought her body was strong enough to fight the coronavirus without the vaccine.
But after a weeklong church camp, she and other members of her family tested positive for the coronavirus. By the time Rodriguez, 42, changed her mind and asked for the shot, it was too late, her doctor said. A ventilator awaited her, her cousin Dottie Jones told The Washington Post.
Out of options, the Galveston, Texas, mother of four, asked her family to make a promise: “Please make sure my kids get vaccinated,” Rodriguez, a piano teacher, told her sister during their last phone call.
Rodriguez died Monday — two weeks after her husband, Lawrence Rodriguez, 49, also died after coronavirus complications. The couple fought the virus from hospital beds just a few feet from one another in a Texas intensive care unit, Jones said.
Lydia and Lawrence Rodriguez, who were married for 21 years, were among the tens of millions of Americans who have not yet received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, which is available free to anyone over the age of 12. Health officials have stressed that the vaccine significantly lowers one’s chance of becoming severely ill or dying of the virus. The now-orphaned children of the Rodriguez family join the millions tragically affected by the sometimes deadly illness.
The case of the Rodriguez family echoes that of other unvaccinated patients who have begged their doctors for vaccine doses before being intubated.
“Lydia has never really believed in vaccines,” Jones, 55, told The Post. “She believed that she could handle everything on her own, that you didn’t really need medicine.”
A neonatal nurse, Jones was familiar with the serious effects COVID-19 had on mothers and babies she treated at the Sugarland, Texas, hospital where she worked. She shared with Rodriguez how she had watched patient after patient be connected to a ventilator for weeks without much improvement.
Jones could have gone on and on. But her cousin’s silence spoke for itself, she said.
“I knew she would never get vaccinated,” Jones told The Post. “I was very concerned.”
Rodriguez’s husband, who shared her anti-vaccine beliefs, also declined to get the shot. Three of their four children are eligible but have not yet received the vaccine, Jones said.
In early July, days after Rodriguez and the children returned from a Christian church camp, Jones’s worst fears became true. One by one, each member of the family — including Rodriguez’s husband, who did not attend camp because of work — tested positive for the coronavirus.
The family didn’t tell anyone they were sick until Rodriguez’s husband drove her to the hospital on July 12 after she began experiencing shortness of breath. Rodriguez was admitted to the ICU, and her husband was admitted to another ward, Jones said.
By then, the rest of the family stepped in to bring groceries and medicine to the couple’s four children, who were all infected and quarantining at home. The youngest child was the only one to experience mild symptoms, Jones said. The rest were asymptomatic.
At one point, Lawrence Rodriguez’s condition appeared to be improving, but a couple of days after he was admitted, he was rushed to the ICU. He requested a coronavirus vaccine shortly before being put on a ventilator, Jones said, but it was also too late for him. He died Aug. 2.
By then, Lydia Rodriguez was fully dependent on an oxygen mask that prevented her from talking to her children, who called to check in and sing Christian hymns to lift her spirits.
“We are praying for you and taking care of the kids,” Jones recounted telling her cousin during her last days. Hospital staff called the family on Aug. 16 to report that Rodriguez had died.
The family has relayed her last wishes about the vaccine to the couple’s 18-year-old twins, Jones said. The plan is to schedule an appointment for the 11-year-old daughter as soon as she qualifies, and the couple’s 16-year-old son is expected to get the shot soon.
The family has created an online fundraiser to help the Rodriguez children while the courts figure out who will become the guardian of the minors.
Wednesday is expected to be a difficult day for the four siblings, Jones said. Their mom would have turned 43.