'I was on the phone the whole time': SoCal wife heard husband's last moments as doctors tried to revive him

Jose Blanco and his family had smiled even through the hardships of life below the poverty line, but COVID-19 struck them all when they were already at risk.
Jose Blanco and his family had smiled even through the hardships of life below the poverty line. COVID-19 struck them all when they were already at risk.

Blanco's job - until he lost it - was mostly minimum wage industrial clean up. His wife Elizabeth says he was glad when it was for hazardous materials because he got premium pay, though he did not always have protective gear.

"There's a lot of pesticides, there's a lot of mold, he had to clean that material as well," says widow Elizabeth Romero.

A 2017 fire at their Wilmington apartment displaced them. On their return, they could only afford a studio. Space was so tight for everyone in the complex, they could not isolate when COVID-19 invaded.

"Then my kids passed it on to my husband, to me, to my mother, to my father to everybody. I believe some of my neighbors as well because the kids would always play together," says Romero.

They recovered. But with Jose, there were aftereffects. Blood clots were forming in his limbs.

He was in the hospital on a call with his wife when the heart attack came.

"I heard the nurse come in saying, 'Jose, sir. I brought your water. Sir, sir.' And then I hear the doctor saying it was a Code Blue. They tried to bring him back for 45 minutes. I was on the phone the whole time. My son, he grabbed the car keys. He's like, 'I have to go get daddy,' because he was listening to everything as well," says the 28-year-old mother of three.

Blanco is part of a troubling trend. Latinos have a COVID-19 hospitalization rate that is four times higher than whites.

Now his family's future is even more precarious.

A GoFundMe account is set up to help with funeral costs and mounting bills.

Friends have organized a car wash for Saturday, Oct. 3 that will take place on the corner of Wilmington Boulevard and F Street.
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