Legislator shares her story of COVID-19 battle - Albuquerque Journal

Legislator shares her story of COVID-19 battle

University of New Mexico Hospital and other hospitals in the state are seeing a surge in COVID-19 patients. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – About two weeks ago, Dayan Hochman-Vigil found her husband, Charles, blue from lack of oxygen.

He’s been in the hospital ever since, including a 12-day stint in intensive care.

Hochman-Vigil, a lawyer and state representative from Albuquerque, said Tuesday that she hopes sharing her family’s experience – both she and Charles contracted COVID-19 – will help illustrate how vicious the virus can be.

They were careful, wore masks and have no idea, she said, how COVID-19 reached their household.

“We’ve only been married a couple of years,” Hochman-Vigil said in an interview. “I was facing the reality that I might be losing my husband. It was just so quick and out of nowhere.”

Charles Vigil, an award-winning lawyer at the Rodey Law Firm and past president of the State Bar, is now one of 425 virus patients in New Mexico hospitals – a threefold increase over the last month. Hospitals throughout the state report being full of patients, even as the virus shows no sign of slowing down.

New Mexico has tightened its public health order in recent weeks, and more changes are expected this week. As it stands now, the order – imposed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration – directs most businesses to close at 10 p.m.; prohibits more than five people from gathering at a time, unless they live together; and requires the closure of businesses with four or more cases of COVID-19 in the workplace within two weeks.

Masks remain required in public settings.

NM sets death record

Tuesday was another grim day for New Mexico. The state broke two of its own coronavirus records, including a new high for virus deaths in a week.

Health officials reported 14 deaths, pushing the state’s seven-day rolling average to more than 14.1 fatalities a day, the highest it’s ever been.

The average number of new cases is also a record. The seven-day rolling average now stands at 1,188 cases a day – a 55% increase since the beginning of the month.

Just on Tuesday, health officials tallied 1,266 cases – led by 307 in Bernalillo County and 222 in Doña Ana County.

The deaths reported Tuesday include seven residents of Doña Ana County, ranging in age from their 40s to their 80s.

The statewide death toll is now 1,144 residents.

But New Mexico’s dismal virus numbers go beyond the daily case and death counts:

• The share of tests that come back positive is at its highest level since April, reaching 10.4% in the most recent seven-day period tracked by the state.

• The state’s hub hospitals reported 307 adults in their ICU beds Tuesday, well above their baseline capacity of 290, forcing them to invoke contingency measures to free up more space. Hospital leaders have warned that they might have to treat people in MASH-style units next month if infections continue at their current pace.

‘Fighting for his life’

Hochman-Vigil said she expects her husband to remain hospitalized for another week or more. He is still on oxygen at University of New Mexico Hospital but is no longer in the ICU.

Charles contracted the virus, she said, in late October. About a week later, he had a cough and decided to lie down in the bedroom – when Hochman-Vigil discovered him looking blue from low oxygen levels.

An oximeter confirmed the problem, she said, and she took him to the emergency room.

“He spent the next 12 days in the ICU fighting for his life,” Hochman-Vigil said. “He was a healthy adult.”

Charles J. Vigil. (Courtesy Rodey Law)

Charles Vigil, 56, is a member of the American Bar Association Board of Governors and has taught legal ethics at the University of New Mexico School of Law. He served as president and managing director of the Rodey Law Firm – one of the most prominent in the state – from 2006-19.

Hochman-Vigil said her own case of COVID-19 was more mild than her husband’s. She had headaches, nausea, nerve pain in her fingers and body aches.

Hochman-Vigil, first elected in 2018, is believed to be the first state legislator in New Mexico to reveal a positive test for COVID-19.

As the virus hit her family, she won reelection to the state House last week. Hochman-Vigil is a Democrat whose district covers much of the North Valley and part of the Northeast Heights.

“This virus is not political,” she said. “This virus doesn’t care who you voted for or what you believe in. It will affect you the same way. We have to take it seriously.”

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

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