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A mother’s constant vigil

Community: Mom stays at hospital bedside of comatose 16-year-old son, who was hurt in crash

Posted: March 22, 2010 10:25 p.m.
Updated: March 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Guerra's other son Jose, 18, is transported from the scene of the accident that injured him and his brother.

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For the past eight weeks, Zoila Guerra has practically lived at the hospital.

She waited for her teenage son to wake up from the coma he had been in since his brother crashed on Sierra Highway in January, leaving his car mangled and wrapped around a telephone pole.

When the Saugus mother wasn’t in her son’s room, she was catching a few rare moments of rest on a wooden chair in a waiting room. Eventually, hospital employees snuck in a bed a few nights and others would bring her food.

Prayers always ran through her mind.

And they were finally answered for the first time about two weeks ago when Kevin Gomez, a 16-year-old junior at Canyon High School, opened his eyes for the first time since the crash.

And on Wednesday, Kevin reached another milestone: Doctors removed his tracheotomy tube after so many surgeries his mother isn’t sure about the number.

He’s still, however, unable to speak.

A crashing halt

After school that fateful day, Kevin’s older brother, Jose Gomez, 18, a Canyon High School graduate, picked him up and then lost control of a Honda Civic on the wet, slick road. The car jumped a curb and crashed into a telephone pole.

The older brother, Jose, sustained head trauma, a broken jaw and broken ribs in the collision. He, too, was in a coma, but only for a few days, his mother said.

Jose still isn’t out of the woods. His mother said fluid is collecting behind his forehead and he is possibly looking at another surgery.

His plans to join the U.S. Air Force in April have, at the very least, been put on hold.

“When Jose woke up after being in a coma, it took him a day or two to remember what happened. But he’s not exactly sure,” said Guerra, who had to be admitted to the emergency room when she exhibited signs of a heart attack upon learning of her sons’ accident.

She had spent three days in a hospital bed while her sons were upstairs in the intensive care unit.

Kevin wasn’t wearing a seat belt, said Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station Deputy Robert Smoldt on Thursday.  

Today, Kevin’s right eye is open, but his left lid droops. He has three rows of staples on the right side of his shaven head, and he thrashes around in the bed at times.

Since earlier this week, Kevin has a certified nurse assistant watching over him 24 hours a day looking out for his safety, keeping him clean and dry and paying attention to his oral care.

This has given his mother a slight break. She’s gone home briefly to shower and dress, before returning to her vigil.

Accepting charity
Guerra’s a proud woman. Accepting charity is tough for her.

But she said she has been overwhelmed by the amount of support she has received since her boys were near death.

From the staff at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospitals to family and friends and even strangers, Guerra can’t say enough about the community.

“It’s a beautiful community. Strangers give me hugs, they talk to me, they pray with me and send me money,” Guerra said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Her employer, Bobbi Burrows of Valencia, continues to pay her salary despite Guerra’s objections.

Burrows has spent numerous hours at the hospital and was with Guerra when the emergency room incident happened.

“Her sons were touch and go for a long time. Having a child in this type of accident is horrendous, but to have two ... everyone always asks me how they are doing,” Burrows said.

Burrows said she has a fundraiser planned for the family in April. Many have written letters, sent food, and contributed in so many ways, she said.

“(Guerra) is a strong woman. They are going to need a lot of help for a long time,” Burrow said. “So many people want to help. I told a friend and they told a friend and they told friends. The entire community wants to know about how they are doing.”

In God’s hands
She said her boys didn’t drink alcohol and spent most of their time at home. She’s unsure of where they were headed the day of the Jan. 26 crash.

It’s been hard on her, the boys and their 12-year-old sister. Guerra tries not to worry about tomorrow and concentrates on today instead.

“I have God in my heart. I put my sons in His hands,” she said, anxiously playing with her fingers. “He made me strong. My life has changed. I pray every day, every minute to keep my family safe and better than before.”

She keeps two photographs of the demolished Honda, its top sawed off in order to extract the two boys to safety.
When she looks at it, tears come to her eyes.

“I can’t wait to take my son to school so he can see his friends. I plan to talk about the accident and the (necessity) of wearing seat belts,” Guerra said.

But even more than that, she yearns for the day she’ll hear him speak again.

Guerra said: “He always would say, ‘Mom. I love you.’”

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