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Idaho mother and son die within days of each other from COVID-19

Michael Vasquez passed away Sept. 18. Three days later, his mother Irene Zuniga died. Both tested positive for COVID-19.

CALDWELL, Idaho — A Treasure Valley family grieves the loss of a mother and son who died within three days of each other at hospitals after testing positive for COVID-19. The Caldwell community is now gathering behind the family in support to honor the two's legacies.

"I think I'm still kind of in shock, I don't think it's hit me yet," said Angelica Melendez, the sister of Michael Vasquez and daughter of Irene Zuniga. "I feel like we were being pretty careful before but it's sad that something like this [happens], it really opens your eyes."

Vasquez passed away Sept. 18 at West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell. He tested positive for coronavirus earlier in the month and was admitted into the hospital on Sept. 7. 

Melendez said medical staff withdrew care on him on Sept. 18 because of a lack of wall function in his heart and his kidneys and liver were failing.

"My brother was just kind of on a rollercoaster, he was doing good then he wasn't, he was doing good then he wasn't," Melendez described.

Days after Vasquez's passing, Zuniga died at St. Luke's in Boise on Sept. 21. She was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 11, after also testing positive for COVID-19. 

Care was withdrawn on Sept. 21 because her kidneys were failing, her lungs weren't functioning properly and her blood pressure was dropping, according to Melendez.

Vasquez was 37 years old and Zuniga was 52 years old, passing away one day before her 53rd birthday.

Both the mother and son left behind large, close families of their own with young children.

"For our family, this was our first experience with COVID," Melendez said.

To Melendez, both her brother and mother were pillars in the Caldwell community. The loss of Michael Vasquez and Irene Zuniga are not only affecting their family but anyone who has ever come in contact with them.

"My brother was always just so positive, optimistic. You know, just loved to smile and laugh and tell jokes. My mom was just very welcoming. She welcomed everybody and anybody," Melendez said of the two.

Vasquez was a coach for the Inferno Soccer Club. Melendez said he had a huge passion for the sport and was able to impact many players around the area and pass down the same enjoyment. She has memories of watching her brother coach games and see how much people enjoyed and loved him.

Melendez said her mother is an amazing person, which she added is not only because she's her mother, she said anyone that knew Zuniga thought she was an amazing and friendly person.

For Melendez, it's hard to comprehend the death of anyone so close to her, let alone two people. However, seeing the large support from the Caldwell community, her family members have touched has been incredible.

"It's overwhelming, in a good way. It's like, 'Wow,'" Melendez said. "There are so many people that are coming together to do things and a lot of them have taken it upon themselves to do these things. It's just amazing."

While Melendez and her family continue to reflect on the significant impacts left behind by her mother and brother, she encourages everyone who can to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She hopes in doing so, others won't experience what she and her family and friends are going through. 

Melendez is unsure if her brother and mother were vaccinated.

"We took it seriously before, but even more now," Melendez said. "It's just heartbreaking. It's not something I would want anybody to go through."

The Inferno Soccer Club will hold a bake and taco sale at Brothers Park in Caldwell from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 25. The team said anyone is welcome to donate food or money to the sale. Proceeds will go to the Vasquez family.

King Legend Night Club in Caldwell will also be holding a fundraiser on Sept. 25 and all door proceeds will go to the Vasquez family.

The family also needs help with funeral services. People can help by donating to Melendez's Venmo, at Angelica-Melendez-5.

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