When Maria Garza gave birth to her second child in a Texas hospital in late July, she was without one very important person: her husband, Jason, who died of COVID earlier this year.
Garza, of Leander, welcomed her son on July 19, just two months after the boy's father lost his battle with COVID, NBC affiliate KXAN reported.
"It was so bittersweet," she told the outlet. "Feeling his presence there was special."
The family's life was flipped upside down in early February after Jason tested positive for COVID while Garza was five months pregnant, according to KXAN.
Garza had a mild case of the virus herself last year, and expected the same for her husband — but within days, he had trouble breathing, and after a week, was admitted to the hospital.
"He couldn't walk. A week after that he was put on a ventilator," she told KXAN. "So it was a very, very fast progression of disease there."
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While Jason remained on a ventilator, Garza was able to get vaccinated, which was a relief for her, but provided no solution to her husband's condition.
She said the family had to make the painful decision not to bring him to Florida for a lung transplant because he was "so unstable," KXAN reported.
"One day he was improving and the next day he would almost pass. The stress of him being in the ICU for three months was almost more than his passing," Garza told Good Morning America. "By the time that his passing came about, it was, [in] a way, a relief, because we knew that he wouldn't be suffering."
Jason ultimately died on May 4, almost three months to the day after he first tested positive, while "listening to his favorite songs," according to a GoFundMe page.
"Rest In Peace, my love. Gone, but never forgotten," Garza wrote on the page.
A few weeks later, their son came into the world in the same hospital, and was named after his late father, GMA reported.
"Going back into a hospital setting, and the nurses wearing the same uniforms and the gowns being the same color pattern and everything was jarring," Garza told the outlet. "But with the support of my family and my mom was there with me and I held his memories close to my heart. [Giving birth] definitely [was] a bittersweet moment."
Garza, who works in the healthcare industry, is now focusing on making sure people — especially pregnant women — understand the importance of getting vaccinated.
"He should have had a short disease, and he didn't," she told KXAN. "Any pregnant woman out there, as a mom, what you want to do first and foremost is to protect your children, and I was able to do that with the COVID vaccine."
Added Garza's OB-GYN Dr. John Thoppil to GMA: "The risk of hospital admission, intubation, all that is two to three times (as likely) for nonvaccinated women who get COVID. Pregnancy is a known risk factor, and the vaccine is equally effective for pregnant women."
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