MIDLOTHIAN, Texas - One Midlothian ISD Board of Education member, who is a former police officer, is fighting the effects of COVID-19 in a hospital while the community rallies for him.
Richard Pena is still in a hospital nearly two months after his COVID-19 diagnosis.
"Yeah, it’s very hard. It’s very shocking when you’re wake up every morning and your husband is not next to you and you don’t know when he’ll be back," Richard’s wife, Jeniffer Pena, said.
Jeniffer said her husband had COVID-related pneumonia, extremely low oxygen levels, and a collapsed lung. He hasn’t been able to speak to her because of a trach tube.
"You know, when you see your husband with machines coming all out of his body and life support, basically," Jeniffer said.
Still, as grim as it appears, he’s on the upswing after 59 days in the hospital and his family hopes the fight will make him stronger.
"It’s terrifying and it’s shocking and it’s going to be okay," Richard’s sister, Demetra Conrad, said.
His family started a Facebook group to provide updates to loved ones.
"This group was created to think a couple dozen people would need to get updates, and that group is over 1,000 people now," Conrad said.
They didn’t expect to see how many people are showing love to the board member who is also a former Midlothian police officer.
"And this has been amazing to just experience the good even in a really horrible situation," Conrad added.
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He didn’t have any pre-existing conditions. His family isn’t answering questions about his vaccination status, but believe the father of five was relatively healthy.
They have many questions, specifically, why him?
"We often get the answer, it’s COVID and we’re still figuring it out," Conrad said.
An agonizing two months, and likely more months to recover.
"They don’t give you any timetable, they just say it’s a long slow road," Jeniffer said.
But they feel blessed it’s not worse than it is and that he’s moving forward.
"Obviously, this virus is real," Jeniffer said.
"Even in some of the weakest moments, he proves to us that he is exactly who we knew he was," Conrad said.
All while they’re beyond grateful for the doctors at his side, as well as everyone across the community showing prayer and support.
"I do know life is precious and your life can change in an instant," Jeniffer said.
The 47-year-old is being treated at Baylor Scott & White Heart Hospital in Plano after being transferred from Methodist Midlothian.