When Debbie Aleman learned her 95-year-old mother was diagnosed with COVID-19, she only assumed the worst.
“With her age, scared us half to death because we thought surely this was a death sentence," Aleman said.
She said her mother Ruth, who lives at a nursing home in Mesquite, was diagnosed with the coronavirus in mid-April.
"On a Sunday night she started feeling a little allergy-like, nothing major, she just kept saying, 'I don’t feel that bad, but I feel like I have allergies.' On Monday, same thing. On Tuesday, felt a little worse but still not sick. On Wednesday, she was still feeling the same way, but the doctor, thank God, decided to do a COVID test," Aleman said.
She said her mom later developed more symptoms and was admitted to the hospital and at one point had some fluid in her lungs. Ruth was there for more than a week.
“It was a nightmare, we were never able to come inside or comfort her or tell her that she’s going to be OK," Aleman said.
Ruth is out of the hospital now and beat COVID-19, but her family still can't embrace her quite yet. They can still only look at her through a window at the nursing home and talk to her on the phone.
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"She’s back, she’s COVID free, she’s back to where she was in her room, but she's just having to start over with physical therapy.“
Ruth has survived two strokes.
"She has outlived all of her friends, all the ones that were worried about her, in 2004, she’s outlived all of them including my father, who was her caregiver, then low and behold she comes up with COVID. My mom has always trusted in the Lord and so she trusted him this time and he brought her straight through it," Aleman said.
She's cleared many hurdles and is attempting another: to get her strength back to practice what she loves, painting.
“She paints all day long, before COVID, you walk into mom’s room, and she’s painting," Aleman said.
Ruth, who is also blind in one eye due to a procedure, found her passion to paint more than 30 years ago. Her family said after her stroke, she asked God to give her the ability to paint again and vowed not to sell her works of art, but rather give them away.
Since then, she's given her artwork to nurses, staff and residents. Some of her pieces include religious artworks, like a life-size painting of Jesus Christ she completed last year.
"She did tell my daughter yesterday that she’s ready before she would say, 'I can’t do it, I can’t do it,' but yesterday she said, 'I'm ready.’ So we’re hoping that maybe next week in therapy she can start doing that again," Aleman said.
She said the timing of all of this is also special because July means a lot to their family.
“Today (July 5) would have been their 75th anniversary and so it’s very ironic that you called today and wanted to do a story today because had daddy been alive, and he died nine years ago, today would have been their 75th wedding anniversary," Aleman said.
Her parents had only known each other for five days before they tied the knot.
She said her father, Johnny, was a police officer in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and met her mother on July 1, 1945, at a candy store Ruth was working at. He proposed on the spot, she said, "No," and would continue to decline his request until July 4.
"She said, 'OK,' and on the 5th, they got married on the back of a motorcycle. They interrupted a Wednesday night church service and they got married," Aleman said. “They were happily married amazing couple and I'm pretty proud of them and I'm pretty proud to be their daughter."
Together they have two daughters, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, including two Ruth has yet to see in person because they were born during the pandemic.