FORT WORTH, Texas — A community is mourning yet another painful loss to the COVID-19 virus.
Paige Ruiz, a 32-year-old Fort Worth mom of two and school district leader, died after enduring complications from COVID after giving birth. Family called her "the life of the party."
"She had the biggest smile, the biggest personality,” described Ruiz's mom, Robin Zinsou.
Family told WFAA that Ruiz, who was pregnant when she contracted the virus, was not vaccinated. She caught COVID before the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their strong recommendation to pregnant women to get the COVID vaccine.
"I kept asking her, 'have you talked to the doctor about getting the vaccine?' and she said, 'no, mom. I’m going to wait until after I have the baby,'” Zinsou recalled.
Family said Ruiz, who had a two-year-old daughter named Joanna, was due to have her baby on July 30.
She tested positive just days before, on July 24.
It started as a simple cough.
"'It’s just a cough, it’s just a bad cold,'" Zinsou recalled her daughter telling her.
But, eventually, Ruiz had to go to the emergency room with difficulty breathing. Doctors performed an emergency C-section on Aug. 2. She was taken off intubation and began to recover - before having complications. She died Aug. 15.
“As Paige’s mom, it was difficult to see her, knowing she didn’t get to see her baby," Zinsou said.
During her recovery, before she passed, she was able to video chat with her newborn daughter, Celeste, and text friends and family.
“She texted me and said, 'mom, I wish I got vaccinated,'" Zinsou recalled. "She was texting her friends and her sisters and said, you know anyone who isn’t vaccinated, beg them to get vaccinated.”
COVID-19 has claimed more than 600,000 American lives, and just 22% of pregnant women are vaccinated according to federal data.
The family is now hoping to spread the message for everyone who is able, to get vaccinated.
Ruiz was the coordinator of student learning outcomes and federal programs for the Joshua Independent School District, and had just started the new job three weeks before getting sick. She previously served as the assistant principal of Nichols Middle School. Ruiz was born and raised in Fort Worth, graduating from Dunbar High School before going on to TCU.
"Her dedication and passion to educating students will always be remembered, along with her kindness to others," the district said in a statement.
Zinsou said she has cherished the new "healthy," "growing" and "happy little baby," but that the loss of Ruiz is "overwhelming." Still, she said the outpouring after the loss of her daughter has been significant.
“I knew she was special but…she was extra special," Zinsou said.
She said she is now hoping her daughter's last message will encourage others to get the vaccine.
"Protect the others. Protect yourself," Zinsou said. "The pandemic has done so much hurt and so much damage to so many people.”
The family has set up an online fundraising campaign to help pay for funeral expenses and raise money for a college fund for Ruiz's two surviving daughters.