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Stress of home invasion robbery blamed for 81-year-old Tampa woman's stroke

Juan Rodriguez, 86, and wife, Ocilia, were robbed by two men early March 17, Ocilia, 81, had a stroke Thursday that the family blames on the stress of the crime.


Juan Rodriguez, 86, and wife, Ocilia, were robbed by two men early March 17, Ocilia, 81, had a stroke Thursday that the family blames on the stress of the crime.

TAMPA — For a week, Osilia Rodriguez could think of nothing but the robbery.

Images of her husband bound with duct tape and robbers taking cell phone videos of her family photos were etched in her mind, relatives say. She no longer felt safe in her home of 51 years.

On Thursday, she had a stroke.

Her family blames it on the stress of the March 17 home invasion.

"It destroyed my mother," said Eugene Rodriguez, 44, from a hospital waiting room Tuesday.

Relatives are furious at the robbers but unsure where to direct the rage. No one has been arrested in the robbery that took the couple's life savings and Mrs. Rodriguez's sense of well-being.

"They need to understand what they did to her, what they did to both of them," said John Rodriguez, 59, the eldest child.

Stress by itself doesn't cause strokes, but it can exacerbate many medical issues — including some that increase the likelihood of a stroke, said Dr. David Decker, a University of South Florida assistant professor of neurology.

High blood pressure and diabetes are both risk factors, he said, and Osilia Rodriguez, 81, suffers from both.

Husband Juan Rodriguez, 86, noticed something was wrong when they woke up on Thursday. She had trouble walking and talking but insisted he not call an ambulance.

She thought a soak in the tub would revive her.

When John Rodriguez stopped by about 2 p.m., he was horrified. He immediately called 911, despite his mother's mumbled protests.

She was nearly paralyzed on her left side Thursday and could barely talk, family said, but she has steadily improved.

In her hospital bed, a tube feeds her and a television entertains her. But she wants out. She has great-grandchildren's birthdays to attend and meals to cook.

She told her family this morning, "I'm roller skating out of here," Eugene Rodriguez recalled.

He chuckles at his mother's spirit but expects it'll be weeks, maybe months, before she's home again.

"I miss her," said her husband of 64 years.

Juan Rodriguez sat quietly in the waiting room Tuesday afternoon, letting his sons do most of the talking.

A week before his wife's stroke, two young men ambushed him as he left for work at about 2 a.m. He's a maintenance man at the University of Tampa and leaves early to unlock doors. The thieves seemed to know that.

They pushed him back into his West State Street home and bound him with duct tape. The couple watched from the couch as the men ransacked the house and found jewelry, a pistol and a small safe containing their life savings.

Police say they're investigating.

The Rodriguez family hopes someone who hears of the couple's plight will provide a tip.

If that happens, the family plans to pack the courtroom, just as they packed the hospital waiting room. The couple has six children, 16 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren.

"We'll all be there," John Rodriguez said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or

To help police

Tampa police ask anyone with information about the March 17 robbery on W State Street call (813) 231-6130 or Crime Stoppers, toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.

Stress of home invasion robbery blamed for 81-year-old Tampa woman's stroke 03/29/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 1:08am]
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