California mother's COVID-19 death leaves 19-year-old in charge of raising siblings

PALMDALE, Calif. -- The pandemic has taken a toll on so many families.

The pandemic has taken a toll on so many, like the Martinez family. They lost their mother, leaving a teenage son to care for his five younger brothers and sisters.

At 19 years old, Juan Martinez is now making decisions no teenager should have to face.

His mother Brenda Lopez, just 43, lost her life to COVID-19.

"I'll remember my mom as a caring person, a loving person and just a great person," Martinez said.

Martinez says he and his mom were the first to become sick last August.

"We isolated in our bedrooms and a couple days went by to where my mother felt shortness of breath so I decided to call 911, and she went to the hospital," he said.

Martinez says his five other siblings, ranging in age from 2 to 15, also tested positive but showed no symptoms.

His mother's condition, however, started to decline.

"After her heart stopped, they had to sedate her," Martinez said. "Another couple of days went by and both of her lungs began to collapse. She started to get kidney failure."

Martinez recalls getting a call from the hospital.

"They were already performing CPR several times on my mother and 9:30 p.m. came around and they checked for a pulse and there was nothing," he said.

The children buried their mother on Sept. 25.

Martinez is now caring for his brothers and sisters. The father of their 2-year-old brother has custody of him.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the children, and so far, it's raised about $100,000.

"The community has really helped a lot and we're grateful for that and we appreciate everyone," he said. "I'm using that for the holidays and the future in school. I want to do what my mom would have done for them."
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