Charlene Flores last spoke with her husband over the phone before an emergency procedure to remove their unborn baby.
Elesandro Flores Jr. had gone home, at her urging, to make sure their daughters got to school on time. Charlene was admitted to Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno in the early morning hours of Oct. 24, nearly a month and a half before their baby was due, because of pregnancy pains. The pain turned serious several hours later.
Elesandro wasn’t able to speak with Charlene when he returned to the hospital. He heard a code-blue alert after her emergency cesarean section and watched nurses and doctors rush into Charlene’s room.
Soon after, he learned his wife was dead.
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Charlene leaves behind four girls: Lanyssa Vasquez, 12; Kiara Flores, 12; Adriene Flores, 8; and baby Quinn Flores, who remains in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
As they grieve, the community has reached out to help. A GoFundMe donation account was made to help pay for a funeral this Saturday in Fresno. The online account has raised more than $12,000 over the past week.
“Before leaving, she left us a parting gift of her everlasting love for us through her and her husband’s miracle baby, Quinn Nevaeh Flores,” the GoFundMe page reads.
Charlene picked Quinn’s middle name — the backward spelling of “heaven” — because it was “a blessing from God that we had her.”
He is grateful for the outpouring of support.
“It’s just the power of people’s hearts.”
Heart surgery and a coming baby
Charlene underwent heart surgery last summer to address an infection.
Her weakened heart put her at greater risk during pregnancy.
“She chose the baby’s life over hers. She knew that was the case because the doctors told her, ‘You have to sign this (authorizing the C-section) or your baby is not going to survive,’ so she signed it,” Elesandro said of her final hours, “and she’s with God now. She’s happy … she could leave knowing she accomplished her goal, and our goal, together.”
Elesandro said doctors told him because Charlene’s heart was so weak, she likely would have ended up in a coma if she didn’t have the emergency C-section.
The couple wasn’t trying for another baby when they learned Charlene was pregnant, but they were still excited. Charlene wrote in a Facebook post earlier this month that she was nervous but “truly blessed and thankful to have this opportunity to have our last baby girl!!”
In the chance their baby ended up being a boy, the parents of all girls decided on Quinn. They thought it would be a good name for a girl or a boy.
Charlene’s death follows other family tragedies. A house fire destroyed her grandfather’s home this summer, not long after Charlene’s grandmother died.
In a Facebook post about her pregnancy, Charlene wrote that Quinn’s great-grandparents were watching over Quinn from heaven. She thanked God for “being there every step of the way” and her guardian angels for “making sure we are safe!!”
Family was important to Charlene, and she often shared her love for them.
She called Elesandro “the best husband and father ever” in a Facebook post last month wishing him a happy 30th birthday.
“I can’t wait for baby Quinn to come,” she wrote, “so she can enjoy all the love you have to give!!!”
‘She cared about everyone’
Elesandro is sharing that love with Quinn. He visits his baby girl in the hospital multiple times a day. It’s especially important to him to wish her a happy morning and good night.
“She knows her mom is there and her mom is watching us,” he said beside Quinn’s crib Tuesday.
It’s hard for the girls to talk about their mom. They stayed mostly silent during a recent hospital visit to see Quinn, but they wrote about their mom on notebook paper.
“My mom was an amazing, outgoing person,” Kiara wrote. “She also knew how to make people smile when they were feeling down. She also had a beautiful smile that would always brighten the room. She also made GREAT FOOD!”
Lanyssa wrote something similar.
“My mom was a loving person,” Lanyssa wrote. “She cared about everyone. She made sure we had everything. She made me the person I am today. She always smiled. She was always there for us.”
Elesandro is proud of his daughters and how strong they have been. They remind him of his wife.
He said Charlene stayed positive even when she was in pain, and through frequent trips to the hospital over the years.
“She didn’t like people knowing that things are wrong with her,” Elesandro said. “Everybody knew her as someone who smiled and was there for them.”
‘Tomorrow is never promised’
Charlene talked about not taking life for granted in a Facebook post this summer, celebrating the one-year anniversary of her heart surgery.
After her surgery, “I’ve been trying to live my best life,” she wrote. “Because it’s true what they say you never know what’s gonna happened. I’m truly blessed to have such an amazing family!!”
She used the post to announce that she was five months pregnant with Quinn.
“Yes you read that right, we are expecting our newest edition to our family, and last lol,” she said. “We cannot wait to meet our new baby coming December 2018!!!”
Doctors thought Quinn would be born Dec. 7. She may have to remain in the hospital until that time.
Elesandro hopes his daughters grow up to have their “mother’s heart” — her compassion.
Charlene’s health issues made her more grateful for all that she had.
“Life is way too short to dwell on all the dumb stuff!!!” Charlene wrote in a Facebook post. She vowed to live “without drama” and “bs” because “tomorrow is never promised.”
Elesandro said Quinn will grow up knowing her mom. He says the memories shared, the example of their daughters, and Quinn’s own special connection will ensure that.
“She was with her mom, her mom held her — not in her arms, but in her womb,” he said. “That connection is there, and it will be forever.”
Viewing: 9-10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Chapel of Light, 1620 W. Belmont Ave., Fresno. Memorial service: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the same location. Burial service: 1-2 p.m. at Fresno Memorial Gardens, 175 S. Cornelia Ave., Fresno. A gathering will follow the service.
How to help
Online: There is a GoFundMe donation account titled “Dearly Beloved, Charlene Flores.”
Barbecue fundraiser: Starting at 2 p.m. Nov. 4, 2316 S. Price Ave., Fresno. Pre-orders for $12 tri-tip and chicken dinners can be made by calling or texting 559-375-2104 or 559-577-9608 by Nov. 1. Delivery available in the Fresno area.
Denny’s fundraiser: The Denny’s at 1121 N. Parkway Dr., Fresno will donate 20 percent of proceeds (pre-tax) collected from 4 to 10 p.m. Nov. 5.
Bank donations: Donations can also be made to Wells Fargo account number 1390613584.