Originally Published in USAToday
Money Alvarado - November 16, 2020
WOODLAND PARK, N.J. — As Luz Vanegas awaited the birth of her grandchild, she dreamed of helping her daughter navigate the trials and joys of being a first-time mother.
But since this summer, the New Jersey woman's dreams have gone horribly awry.
In July, her 28-year-old daughter, Estefania Mesa, gave birth to a baby girl but suffered a cardiac arrest during her emergency C-section, leaving her with brain damage, unable to talk or walk. Vanegas is now helping raise her 4-month-old granddaughter, while her daughter is in a rehab center.
In September came another shock. During a routine check-in with federal immigration officials, Vanegas was given an ankle monitor and told to come back in a few months with her passport and a one-way ticket to her native Colombia. She now faces possible deportation, 22 years after arriving in the U.S.
“When I look at my granddaughter, it breaks my heart," Vanegas, 46, said through tears in an interview last week. "It breaks my heart because she should be with her mother. She shouldn’t be raised by her grandmothers. She should have her mother by her side, but she doesn’t have her.”
Vanegas, a homemaker, applied for a green card two years ago and sought a stay of her deportation last week. Still, she worries about being forced to leave during the final days of President Donald Trump's administration, which has pushed for the removal of thousands of undocumented immigrants since 2017.
“I’m going to keep holding my breath until we hear back, but we are hoping for the best,’’ said her immigration attorney, Samantha Chasworth of the Nachman Phulwani Zimovcak Law Group.
Estefania Mesa started feeling contractions the night of July 19, so she headed to Hoboken University Medical Center with her longtime boyfriend, the baby's father, Eduardo Argueta. The couple had been preparing for months and were excited to meet their firstborn, whom they had decided to name Emma.
They spent hours waiting as Mesa's contractions strengthened, and by the evening of July 20 doctors determined they would perform a C-section, Argueta said. He was taken to another room to prepare for the delivery when things suddenly and inexplicably changed.
First, Argueta said, more than a dozen nurses and doctors ran into the room where Mesa was due to deliver. He heard someone yell “Code Blue,” the term used in hospitals to indicate a medical emergency.
The father-to-be wasn't allowed in. Later, when the hospital staff let him see his newborn, Emma was hooked up to monitors. Mesa was on a ventilator.
“That picture of her being like that is still in my memory, every night, and it’s something not easy to handle," Argueta said.
For days, he said, he asked doctors and nurses what had happened but never received an answer.
“What happened in the room? Why is she like this? How did she come to the hospital walking here and healthy, with no previous health conditions, and now she is laying in bed fighting for her life?’’ Argueta asked in an interview. “Their answer is 'we are looking into it, we are investigating, we don’t have any answers.' ”
Eric Bloom, managing director for Mercury, a public relations firm that represents CarePoint, the owners of the hospital, declined to comment in an email.
Argueta and Vanegas have since hired an attorney, Samuel Davis, hoping to get an explanation from the hospital. Late last month, Davis filed a petition in court asking a judge to order the medical center to turn over complete charts.
“We are hoping that Hoboken does a reset on how they are approaching this,’’ Davis said. “Being candid now will save the family a lot of suffering, and ultimately will save Hoboken a lot of expense.”
Last week, Mesa was transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey, where her mother now visits most days. She still cannot speak or walk, her mother said. She needs a feeding tube for nourishment. When Mesa is shown pictures of Emma, she gets emotional and cries at times, Vanegas said.
"The nurses tell me that she may never be 100 percent,'' Vanegas said, her voice cracking. "That hurts my soul, and they tell me the process and recovery is going to be very long."
Vanegas emigrated from Colombia in 199, and was living and working in the U.S. for about a year when her two daughters, Estefania and Daniela, came to join her. But when they arrived, immigration officials at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York noticed problems with the girls’ documents, the mother said.