TAMPA — Astrid Reyes was a brave girl when her mother brought her to the United States a year ago to escape poverty and violence in Honduras.
The journey took a month. Both mother and daughter evaded the dangers immigrants face in their quest to reach the United States and apply for asylum. They endured inclement weather and the stalking of criminals, slept in the open and went hungry until they reached the Mexican city of Reynosa, in the state of Tamaulipas. From there, they crossed the Rio Grande to Texas.
Of the group of 30 immigrants who tried crossing, only Astrid and her mother, Suny Galindo, weren’t intercepted by border patrol agents.
Astrid never complained. She never shed a tear. She was 6 years old.
“She was a very intelligent and mature girl for her age,” says Galindo, 24. “She was my only daughter and she told me: Mom, I will always be here to take care of you.”
On Aug. 19, Astrid died in the emergency room of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, three days after she was admitted unresponsive and with seizure activity.
She is the youngest person in Florida to die from complications of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
Astrid’s name was added to the list of at least eight children who have died from COVID-19 complications in Florida since the pandemic began, along with a 9-year-old, two 11-year-olds, two 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds.
The majority of recorded coronavirus cases and deaths have been in adults, and children are less likely to have severe symptoms when infected. Of the 6 million cases reported in the United States, about 265,000 were in children, which is about 5 percent, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, some children are becoming seriously ill and dying.
Astrid was born with a heart murmur. In Honduras, the doctors told Galindo that it was not serious and she could live normally. Before her death, Astrid was not on any medications and had no prior surgeries.
But Astrid began to feel sick on the morning of Aug. 16, a Sunday. Her mother said Astrid woke up and complained that she had a headache and a sharp pain in her left leg. Minutes later she had a seizure and became unresponsive.
Galindo was stunned by the unfolding of events.
“We shared the same room and the day before Astrid was feeling very well. But she woke up complaining of pain. Her forehead was hot. She started convulsing and I asked for help,” said Galindo.
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She took Astrid to the Florida Hospital, on Fletcher Avenue, eight minutes from home. Astrid was transferred by helicopter to All Children’s.
The doctors tried everything, Galindo said, but the damage to her daughter’s brain was irreversible. Astrid was connected to a machine from Sunday until Wednesday, when her mother gave the approval to disconnect it.
“The decision was made,” Galindo said. “There was nothing left to do.”
Galindo said it is hard to believe that her daughter was infected with COVID-19. She said Astrid was healthy the whole week until the emergency. She had no temperature, skin rash or other symptoms related to COVID-19.
But Astrid tested positive, according to the summary of an investigative report from the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office. The report indicates Astrid suffered a bilateral pulmonary edema and two internal hemorrhages.
She would have turned 7 on Monday.
“We wanted to send her to school, for her to start first grade,” Galindo said as she looked at the photos of her daughter on her cell phone during a recent interview. In every photo, there is a smile on Astrid’s face.
“This was the phone she liked to use to watch her favorite videos,” Galindo said.
Astrid loved painting, drawing and hands-on arts and crafts. She reveled in watching handicraft videos on YouTube and was learning English at lightning speed.
Rosa Hernandez, a friend of the Galindo family and spiritual advisor for the Alfa y Omega congregation in Tampa, said Astrid was a very loved girl in the community.
“We miss her so much because she was lighting us up with her smile all the time,” Hernandez said. “I was together with the family many times. She was a kind girl and very attached to her mother, with a lot of will to live.”
The day before Astrid got sick, mother and daughter went shopping, spent the afternoon together and attended a church service.
That afternoon, Galindo gave her daughter a Mickey Mouse set of coloring pens in advance of her birthday.
“Astrid was very excited for her birthday,” said Galindo. “It would have been a great day for everyone. It’s very difficult to believe that she is no longer with us.”
A GoFundMe campaign organized by friends and titled ’An Angel has earned her wings’ surfaced this week to help Astrid’s mother.
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