A Hardin family is grieving the loss of its patriarch and matriarch after they died from COVID-19 complications. Anita Lozano, 69, died on the morning of July 21, just hours after receiving confirmation for a COVID-19 test she had taken two weeks earlier.
Twelve days later, Ruben Lozano Sr., her husband of 53 years, also 69, died while under medical care at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.
The Lozanos’ oldest son, Ruben Jr., said that both had underlying health issues that weakened their immune systems and made it harder for them to fight back against the novel coronavirus. The couple was taking precautions, such as wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing, but somehow contracted the illness.
Anita first became ill on July 11. She told Ruben Jr., a Houston firefighter, that she was going to a hospital in Baytown to be checked. Four hours later, Anita told her children that she had taken a COVID-19 test but was awaiting results. The doctors reportedly suspected that she had bacterial pneumonia, so she was sent home with instructions on treating that illness and told to self-isolate.
“Over the next 5-6 days, my dad started feeling ill. He was having abdominal issues – diarrhea, runny nose and fever. Because there were so many Houston firefighters under quarantine, I wasn’t able to get off work because I had no relief staff, so I asked my brother to check on them,” Ruben Jr. said.
Anita was short of breath, which could have been attributed to COVID-19 or bacterial pneumonia. She needed help walking from her bedroom to the bathroom – a span of 15 feet – and was not eating or drinking as much as usual.
Family members continued to check on the couple’s welfare on a daily basis. On July 21, Ruben Jr. stopped by to find his mother lying dead on the living room floor. His father’s condition had worsened, requiring him to be transported to Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center, where he was stabilized and then transferred to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.
“On the morning that my mom died, she got a text saying that her test results confirmed she had COVID-19,” Ruben Jr. said.
Ruben Sr.’s medical condition continued to worsen in the following days. Sometime during the night on Aug. 2, he knocked off his oxygen mask, causing his SAT levels to drop dangerously low. Once back on oxygen, his SAT levels rose to 92 percent.
Four hours later, Ruben Jr. was called by another doctor to ask about comfort care, which is used in the last stages of life. The doctor told him that his father’s condition was grave and comfort care was the best they had to offer him.
Not willing to accept the doctor’s opinion without his own verification, Ruben Jr. asked to see his dad, a request that was at first denied. Ruben Jr., his sister and his brother traveled to the hospital and looked through a glass window to see with their own eyes that their father was struggling to live. They approved the doctor’s request for comfort care. Not long after, Ruben Sr. died.
The Lozanos were the head of a well-respected family in Hardin. Ruben Sr. was a retired construction work. Anita was on disability. They met on a blind date through mutual friends. Anita and her girlfriend agreed to go out on a date with Ruben Sr. and his friend. Both couples hit it off, were married and remained friends throughout their lives.
Anita was known among her friends and family for her thoughtful and considerate nature. A naturally wise person, she gave good advice. Ruben Sr. was a jokester, always making people laugh.
The reality of their parents’ loss hasn’t quite set in for the Lozano children. Ruben Jr. says his parents were the glue that keep the family close. The Lozanos lived for their family members, particularly their grandchildren.
“But as much as they loved their grandchildren, the greatest bond was the life they shared with each other. They couldn’t have lived without each other. My mom was the light of my dad’s life. Losing her, and being apart from his family while he was in the hospital, took away his will to live,” Ruben Jr. said.
Reflecting on his family’s tragedy, Ruben Jr. said that young people and those with healthy immune systems might be able to overcome the illness easily. However, for people with compromised immune systems, like the Lozanos, the disease can be ravaging.
“We really can’t afford to relax about this disease. It’s taking the lives of family members and friends away from us,” Ruben Jr. said. “Wearing a mask and washing your hands are great, but we really need to give distance to each other. It’s hard because we miss seeing each other, but we have to get control of this COVID-19 situation. You might not realize how serious it is until it takes your own loved ones.”