When Sacramento native Andrea Godina called home from Seoul, South Korea, on Friday complaining of cold symptoms, her sisters were not overly concerned. Godina often caught colds and got over them, they said.
Less than 24 hours later, doctors from the Ajou University Hospital in Seoul called Andrea’s mother, Kathy Ruiz, and told her to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Ruiz booked a flight as soon as she could, but not before Godina was declared dead at 9 p.m. Saturday night.
The UC Davis grad died Saturday of flu and pneumonia. The 32-year-old was teaching English to children in Seoul, South Korea, where she had been living on and off since 2008.
Family members are trying to arrange to transport Godina’s body, which will remain in South Korea until they can pay the $14,000 in medical expenses and $3,500 in cremation fees, said sister Leticia Sisneros. Godina was the oldest of four sisters.
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In an effort to raise the money, family and friends put together a carwash fundraiser within 24 hours of the news. A family friend reserved a taqueria parking lot on Northgate Boulevard and a Dollar Tree donated the sponges and buckets, Sisneros said. Uncles and cousins directed traffic flow and washing as the sisters exchanged hugs and words with visitors.
By midafternoon, the carwash had raised more than $1,000. Sisneros said the turnout is a testament to the size of Godina’s family and community.
“She was just such a beautiful person inside and out,” said Victoria Godina. “She had so much strength. She was so loved.”
Andrea, who grew up in the Northgate area, was last home with her mother and sisters in August 2013 before she returned to her job and fiancée in Seoul, Sisneros said.
Andrea’s mother is now overseas, trying to relay more information back home. The family is trying to have the body cremated in Seoul and then shipped to the United States, but the process has been difficult, Victoria said.
“She needs to come home,” she said. “They want their money and they won’t let her go until we pay. It’s such a hardship … it’s just money, money, money, and not everybody has it.”
The Korean Consulate was closed for the holiday, and the family’s claims about medical and transportation expenses could not be verified.
Using a GoFundMe page, the family had raised nearly $8,000 in donations as of Monday. They will hold another carwash at Big Hog Battery Services on Franklin Boulevard next weekend.
In life, Godina was a “very animated person” who loved kids, Sisneros said. She was valedictorian of her class at Grant Union High School and a mentor to younger students.
The family will hold a celebration of life at a Christian church once matters are settled.
“She was so happy before she died; she was going to get married,” said Sisneros. “It’s sad that this is what brings us together, but we just want to take the time to celebrate her life.”