Bay Area health care worker shares fears for reopening after losing mother, grandfather to COVID-19

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- While working at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Melissa Marez has seen many coronavirus patients walk through the doors of their emergency room.

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"It's devastating, but you never hear of it happening to someone you know and someone close to home," VMC Health Service Representative Melissa Marez said.

In April, it hit home when Marez's mother got sick.

A phone call with her step-father gave her an early sign that things were not okay.

"When he lifted up the phone to her, I can hear the way she was breathing," Marez said. "I said, 'that doesn't sound right'. She sounded just like my patients that I register that have COVID. She had a fever of 103 and the labored breathing so they took her in right away."

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Her mother, Norma Jean Miramontes, was admitted April 13 and battled for nearly three weeks before eventually succumbing to the coronavirus on May 3.

The initial diagnosis sent concern through the family, including her grandparents who had spent time with Norma before contracted the virus.

"My grandma starts getting really paranoid because she said he had this weird morning cough and sometimes at night he had a cough," Marez said. "She started to pay attention to his breathing and just being more aware."

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Symptoms didn't improve and at 90 years old, Marez's grandfather Raul Miramontes, was admitted on April 21.

Six days later, as his daughter, Norma, was fighting to survive, the coronavirus took his life.

"There was nothing else they could do," Marez said.

Two family members lost in a matter of weeks.

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And now her grandmother, Adeline Lopez Miramontes, battles the same virus that took the life of Adeline's husband and daughter.

"We can't even be with our family," Marez said. "I can't go to their house and console my younger brother and sister. It's hit us really, really hard."

Her coworkers at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and friends both showed support with videos and drive-by parades, but nothing could truly replace what was lost.


As the phases of reopening continue in California, she has concern for the health of others and she has a warning to those who may not be taking the virus seriously.

"I don't see how things can start opening up this soon," Marez said. "This is real. It could happen to you. It could happen to anybody. Whether or not it has and if you know somebody, but I think it really hits home when it does."

Marez hopes rules are followed so another family doesn't have to suffer like hers.

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