Sara Montoya shared the warning from her hospital bed, where she was on oxygen and struggling to breathe after contracting COVID-19: “Put your masks on. Don’t go out if you don’t have to.” She shared the video on her Facebook page on July 5, just over a month before she died from the virus.
The mom of three, from El Paso, Texas, hadn’t gone out much — she was a homemaker, and had only left the house for “essentials, such as groceries, cleaning, supplies, etc.” — but she, her husband and her father-in-law all contracted COVID-19 at the end of June.
Montoya, 43, first developed a “simple sinus infection,” but was sent home from the hospital when she tried to get checked out for COVID-19. She instead went to a COVID-19 testing site, and while waiting for her results, started having “unbearable fevers.”
On July 1, Montoya was admitted to the hospital and found out she had tested positive for the virus. At first, she just needed oxygen — and that’s when she filmed her video warning others to take COVID-19 seriously.
“Never in my life did I ever think that I would be fighting for my breath, something that we take for granted every day when we wake up,” she said. “Please do not put your families at risk. I did the best that I thought I could. It is not worth it. Put your masks on. Don’t go out if you don’t have to.”
Montoya, who had three daughters in their 20s and a grandson on the way, said she wanted to get back to her family.
“I have fought too hard to have the life that I have now and I refuse to give up,” she said. “I miss my kids. I miss my husband … With the grace of God I will be walking out of this hospital. I don’t know when but I will.”
But after 44 days in the hospital, doctors decided that Montoya needed to be intubated and put on a ventilator.
“Before getting ventilated, I spoke to my mother,” Montoya’s 24-year-old daughter Jasmin Chavez told TODAY. “I instantly began to break down and cry … ‘No llores mi nina’ [‘No more tears, my girl’] were the last words I heard from my mother.”
Montoya was stable and improving slightly, but after a week on the ventilator, doctors found MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, in her lungs.
“We were able to Zoom her. It was one of the hardest things to see my mother with all these tubes coming from her mouth and chest,” Chavez said. “There were times her face was so swollen her eyes were tightly shut.”
Montoya’s doctors told the family that they did not know how else to help their mother, and on Aug. 13, she died. She had no preexisting conditions, the family said.
“She was so young,” Chavez said. “She had a long life ahead of her to live. She had her first grandson on the way in November.”
Chavez has set up a GoFundMe page to help the family pay for funeral costs and medical bills, and is urging people to follow her mother’s warnings.
“People should take this virus seriously and continue to stay home if they can,” Chavez said. “I tried to be my mom’s voice as best as I could to do everything in my power to get her home."
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