Darlene Diaz, a Delano woman whose family urged vaccinations after seven members were sickened with coronavirus, died in the hospital Sunday.
She passed away hours after her story appeared on the front page of The Californian. Her family had hoped that by spreading the word about how COVID-19 had impacted them, some Kern County residents would make the choice to get the vaccine.
“If this can help somebody else not go through this, then it’s worth it,” Tammy Rosario, Darlene’s sister, said of her family's decision to advocate for vaccines.
Darlene, her husband Dino, and her daughter Kristen, were all hospitalized in Delano due to complications with COVID-19. Her family, who grew up in Delano but have now spread out throughout Kern County, spoke out on the importance of the vaccine after only the unvaccinated members became seriously ill.
Although Dino and Kristen were released earlier last week to recover at home, Darlene remained kept alive by the ventilator that had been connected to her lungs for nine days.
“The doctor let us know that all medicine and all science that man knows of was done for her, and whatever God wanted was going to be the outcome,” said Rosemary Perez, Darlene’s older sister.
At 60, Darlene was taken off the ventilator after her body did not show signs of recovery.
“The doctor let her husband know that you can keep her, but her body is doing nothing, and the ventilator was just destroying her lungs at this point,” Perez said. “The minute they took her off the ventilator, she was gone.”
Described as a “firecracker” who was fiercely devoted to her family, Darlene had a giving heart, and was uniquely perceptive of other people’s needs and emotions, her family said. She is the first of six sisters to pass away.
“You hear about COVID, you hear stories, and you read different articles on Facebook, but it doesn’t impact you until it’s one of your own,” Perez said. “It brings a whole new look at what COVID is all about and what it can do.”
The family has just now begun planning for the funeral, and expects to organize a small ceremony. A GoFundMe account has been created to aid the family with medical bills, funeral expenses and the loss of income brought on by COVID-19.