Cost of COVID: Pandemic hits close to home for Black River Falls family

'It hurts when it hits home': Black River Falls family experiences severe illness and loss from COVID-19
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BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WKBT) – People may not think much of COVID-19 until it hits their family.  That’s the message from a Black River Falls mom. She understands the cost of COVID.

Things are closer than they appear. Small towns create this illusion.

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Street lights align the streets in the heart of downtown Black River Falls.

“We knew it was series but it’s like we didn’t really see how it would affect us personally,” Margarita Hernandez said, a mother and resident of Black River Falls.

Hernandez and her family did not know the world’s pandemic existed right down the road. Her children keep her plenty busy.

“There’s me and my significant other Terry,” she said. “Then there is Lillian (7), Leila (6), Keanu(6), Naiya (3), Nua (2), and Krixus (1.5 months). Our small family.”

They struggled with schedules and inconsistent routines with school.

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Margarita Hernandez and her children playing video games.

“It was hard kind of like adjusting to that having all the kids home,” Hernandez said.

Things changed forever at her daughter’s school.

“Someone in her class had tested positive,” Hernandez said. “So, we ended up pulling them from school that day.”

Their whole family received a test out of caution. Negative results came back at first.

“Terry started getting really sick that night,” she said. “It was a Thursday night.”

Experts could call what Terry Sevrant had symptoms, he would say he just could barely breathe. That Sunday, Hernandez’s battle began.

“I wasn’t feeling the greatest. I thought I was just tired,” Hernandez said. “I was 37 weeks pregnant.”

The following week she tested positive. The same story existed for Sevrant. Hernandez and Sevrant experienced nine days of this.

“I felt like I was dying the whole time, she said. “I really did.”

A few days later she gave birth to baby Krixus. Krixus is healthy and Hernandez thought their status quo returned.

“I didn’t know that my mom had actually started getting sick while we were in the hospital,” Hernandez said.

Her mom helped watch her kids in recent weeks and thought it was a cold.

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Photo from Margarita Hernandez

“The day that I was leaving the hospital she was being admitted into the hospital,” she said.

Doctors confirmed her mom had COVID-19 Pneumonia. She was sent to Gundersen Health System in La Crosse. Her attitude was the only thing healthy.

“She was in good spirits,” Hernandez said. “I was making her laugh she was making me laugh.”

Then Friday came.

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Photo from Margarita Hernandez

“My sister had called. I had seen the ambulance actually go by and they said that my dad wasn’t doing to well and wasn’t breathing,” she said. “So, he was getting admitted. He was totally mad. He was the type that didn’t like going to the hospital.”

Kathy White and Francisco Hernandez laid on opposite sides of Gundersen’s hospital.

“The hospital didn’t know that they were married actually,” Hernandez said.

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Gundersen Health System hospital in La Crosse.

Dec. 1 is the day she made a call to the hospital.

“They called me back and they said that my father had passed away earlier that morning,” Hernandez said fighting back tears.

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Photo by Margarita Hernandez

Her living room is where she heard the news.

“Like, I just dropped the phone. I was in complete shock,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t think it was real, you know? My dad was only 59.”

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Photo by Margarita Hernandez

Doctors placed White in an induced coma. Then a doctor told Hernandez about her mom’s reality.

“‘I don’t want to have to tell you this, but we’re really just like prolonging her death,’” she said the doctor told her.

Doctors needed permission from her family to perform the next steps for White’s care.

“We had made the decision, maybe we’ll just let her pass,” Hernandez said.

The bond they shared remains alive and strong. White had four miscarriages before Margarita.

“I was her miracle baby,” Hernandez said. “She was my best friend. She really was.”

Hernandez’s sister paid a final visit to La Crosse and their family video chatted with their mom a final time.

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COVID-19 wing at Gundersen Health System.

“I still see her like that. It scares me because I never wanted to see my mom like that,” Hernandez said. “It really hurts.”

Her newborn Krixus will never know his grandparents.

“They never got to meet him,” she said.

Doctors never took the vents off of Hernandez’s mom. She passed on her own.

“Maybe she was waiting for us to send her off and tell her that we would be okay,” Hernandez said.

Health guidelines didn’t allow for a large funeral service. Saying goodby was especially hard for her daughter Leila.

“She really loved her grandfather. She called him cooka. That means grandpa in Ho-Chunk,” Hernandez said. “She grabbed onto him and she just started crying. She was asking him, ‘Why did you leave me cooka?’”

Their presence may be gone. Their legacy lives on by the example they set.

“They had hearts of gold,” she said. “They would take their shirts off their backs and give it to somebody that needed it. I wanna be like that.”

Her parents were married for 33 years. Hernandez finds comfort they are still together.

“They loved each other more than anything in this world,” she said.

COVID-19’s cost is forever etched in this family’s memory.

“Hold your loved ones close and really appreciate time that you spend with them,” Hernandez said.

In a small town or a big one, things are really closer than they appear.

“It hurts when it hits home,” Hernandez said. “It really does.”

Sevrant’s mom Lisa Kline stepped in during all of this.  Hernandez said her children may have lost two grandparents, but their family gained an awesome one. She is thankful for the family she has. The family does have a GoFundme account set up for anyone looking to help them out during this time.