COVID-19: Rosie Del Rio suffers from coronavirus, thankful to be alive after seven-day SP Hospital stay

November 15, 2020

Peggy Kelly / Santa Paula Times

Published November 4, 2020

It didn’t start with the signature sore throat but rather with breathing problems that became progressively worse for Rosie del Rio as a deep fatigue set in.

It was late September when she first became ill, and by early October Del Rio was failing fast, foregoing her usual time spent sitting outside her apartment off 10th Street waving to passersby.

“My boyfriend was worried at the end of September,” said Del Rio, and he only become more alarmed when she suddenly stopped eating.

“I didn’t want to eat one bite, that was it, and I could feel my body changing,” as got sicker and sicker, now including stomach problems.

Finally, on October 8, an ambulance was called and Del Rio was transported to Santa Paula Hospital, where she was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“They put me on oxygen right away,” the beginning of Del Rio’s seven-day stay in the Hospital on the Hill.

It was a world without faces: everyone who came in contact with Del Rio over the next week wore full PPEs due to the virus. But she said hospital staff still managed to convey real concern and friendliness.

“Everyone came I with the protective wear, I thought about Biblical days when people had leprosy,” believed to be so highly contagious that sufferers were considered untouchables. “I thought about others that passed that could have their families with them,” at the end.

“Everyone was so nice in the Intensive Care Unit, the staff was great. But nobody could come see me… it was awful. I’m not ashamed to say I did a lot of crying, not just for myself, but for family and friends.”

Del Rio said she started writing letters to people: “I just wanted everyone that I knew that I appreciated their friendship, oh my God, life is short, and I really thought,” hers was coming to an end.

She grew stronger and on the fourth day of her hospitalization got her appetite back; she was discharged on Oct. 15.

“Being home has really helped me in getting better. Albert took such good care of me, he has been very protective,” said Del Rio of her boyfriend, Albert Carrillo. She was also reunited with beloved little dog Penelope.

Del Rio lost weight due to her illness, but with Carrillo’s cooking and “feeding me, whatever I’ve lost I put right back on! I appreciate him now more than before.”

The Ventura County Heath Care Agency also stays in regular contact.

It has not yet been determined where Del Rio came into contact with the coronavirus. Her sister had a cold at one point but her parents — Dad will soon turn 91, Mom is 87 — both came down with COVID-19, her father being hospitalized several times.

Leading up to her infection, “I did fear COVID-19,” and Del Rio said she wore masks and followed other safety protocol before she became ill.

“Right away I started with the precautions, I was careful but again I never did think it would happen to me. It can hit anyone, anyone at all.”

Del Rio.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, anyone. This is no game,” but rather “an ugly, lonely depressing time in a person’s life. I was up there for seven days and I just wanted to go home.”

Del Rio is again back in her garden the corner, waving to friends as they pass on 10th Street honking their horns.

COVID-19, she said, “Is a darkness I would never go back to… and I learned life is too short, way too short, to hold grudges, and be mean to people, not that I ever have. In a blink of an eye it all can be taken away from you. I never want to be there again. Anybody that will listen if it can happen to the lady on the corner,” in spite of precautions, “it can happen to anybody.”

In Santa Paula, as of Nov. 2 there have been 965 residents that tested positive for COVID-10 since March 18, when the first confirmed case was reported. So far, 15 city residents have died.

Rosie del Rio of Santa Paula is again enjoying the sunshine — and waving to passersby on 10th Street —with her dog Penelope after spending seven days in the hospital with COVID-19. Photo by Victoria Kelly

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