After his wife of 20 years died on July 13, Ysmael Vega tried to show his love one last time.
“All I did was just hold her hand, massaged her hair, told her how much I missed her,” he told Fox affiliate KSAZ of his wife, Fernanda Vega. “But I saw peace. I didn’t see any more pain. The pain was just that she was gone.”
Like her husband Ysmael and their 17-year-old son, Fernanda had battled a COVID-19 infection since early July, according to the outlet. While Ysmael and his son recovered, Fernanda’s symptoms worsened, and she was taken to a local emergency room shortly before her death. It was there that doctors discovered she had a blood clot in her lungs.
“She was my rock. She was the foundation,” Ysmael — who recently recovered from pneumonia, as well from his bout with COVID-19 — told KSAZ. “Everybody went to her for whatever. She took so much on.”
According to a New York Times database, Arizona, like much of the country, has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. The state has experienced an average of 1,090 cases of the disease over the last seven days ending July 21. About 45 percent of people from all age groups are fully vaccinated.
Ysmael admitted the family did not receive COVID-19 vaccines, due to concerns about potential side effects. Now, he told KSAZ, he’ll get one in the future.
“With what I have experienced, I don’t want to go through this again,” he said. “I do not.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to benefit the family and has raised nearly $16,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
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“I can honestly say she’s made me a better person,” a campaign organizer wrote on the donation page. “Ferny left an incredible mark on so many lives and we need to honor that with strength and with love. As someone said – we all need to be a little more like Ferny.”
“She was a great listener with time for friends from all walks of life,” they continued, in part. “She was as selfless as she was determined and left her mark on so many people.”
On July 21, there were 60,838 new cases of COVID-19 infections around the country (a 14-day increase of 171 percent), according to the Times. Less than half of eligible Americans are currently fully vaccinated, despite widespread availability of the shots.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.