By Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper
My mother, Genevieve Martinez, died in Sierra East Medical Center on July 22 at age 62 from the novel coronavirus. A school nurse at Barron Elementary, our entire family has lost our constant, compassionate guide to the medical system, and counsel in the most difficult moments we face.
She will never get the chance to watch her grandchildren grow up. My siblings and I will no longer be able to call her, hug her, or kiss her again.
This tragedy is now repeating itself in El Paso at a historic scale. I believe that with different leadership in Texas, and in our country, my mother would still be alive today, and El Paso’s hospitals would not be overflowing with people terrified for their own loved ones.
She took every precaution possible to protect herself from COVID-19, while our governor and our president took almost none to protect her. On June 26, Gov. Greg Abbott rushed Texas into re-opening, believing it would lift our spirits and the economy, in order to make a re-election case for President Trump. Perhaps, like Trump, he was hoping one day the virus would just disappear.
Instead, what followed is a historic health care crisis that has overwhelmed our hospitals and led to the deaths of nearly 18,000 Texans, including my mother — more than 600 of them in El Paso.
Because her health-care team was understaffed and undersupplied to handle the rush of cases, her care was deprioritized owing to her age and viral load.
From the moment she went into the hospital, I was forced to constantly track her care to make sure she was given what she needed while every doctor and every nurse was stretched to the limit. Despite her own expertise, and the support of a loving family, this virus was simply too much for her, and the health-care system meant to take care of her.
The cruelest irony is that my mother always made sure to support politicians that declared that they were “pro-life” — including our president. Unlike them, however, she made a point to show up for the vulnerable, the impoverished, and immigrants, because she took her moral obligation to defend life seriously.
The hypocrisy of leaders like Gov. Abbott who claim to believe in the sanctity of life while doing nothing to make sure all Texans have access to decent health care during a pandemic could not be more clear.
Now, thanks to their mismanagement and pandering, Texans are facing what could be up to two years of a pandemic that will unequivocally rip apart families, leave them unemployed, broke, and broken.
El Paso’s ICU beds are filled to capacity. Hospital waiting rooms are extending into parking lots, and people are dying who did not need to.
Most frequently, those affected are people of color, and other disenfranchised communities, including the Hispanic community.
My mother dedicated her life to being a public servant. She was an essential worker, and a compassionate and hopeful human. We have not stopped loving her, or missing her.
As Texas, El Paso, and the nation face a historic third wave surge in cases and hospitalizations, I believe it is time for the politicians to stop using their professed belief in the sanctity of life as a cover for their cruelty, and begin taking the steps that would have saved lives like my mom’s by listening to public health experts, and prioritizing support for the communities being hit hardest by this pandemic.
Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper, 28, is an El Paso native, and graduate of Eastwood High School, who attended UTEP. She currently resides in Dallas with her husband David and daughter Adelaide.