A 27-year-old father from California died on Sunday after enduring a fatal asthma attack caused by the wildfires which left him brain dead.
Joshua Hoefer lost his ability to breathe when the attack came on Wednesday night while he and his girlfriend of seven years, Cierra Lopez, were packing up their belongings so they could leave their Santa Rosa home.
They were planning to leave the next day, and Cierra told DailyMail.com that she now wonders if things might have turned out differently for her family had they left sooner.
Joshua’s story illustrates the speed with which the wildfires, which have now claimed at least 40 lives in California, can devastate entire communities.
Joshua Hoefer (right) died of an asthma attack caused by the California wildfires. The attack left him brain dead last week, and he was taken off life support Sunday. Here Joshua is pictured with his girlfriend of seven years Cierra (left) and their son Nathan (center), five
Cierra said that her boyfriend had struggled with asthma his entire life but that it had gotten worse within the last few weeks.
Joshua’s inhaler no longer worked to subdue his condition, and he had instead been using a nebulizer machine.
Cierra said that even though she could smell the smoke from the wildfires in their home, they thought they had more time to flee at the time of her boyfriend’s attack.
Joshua’s five-year-old son Nathan was in the room when his father lost consciousness.
Immediately after the attack began, Joshua started using his nebulizer machine. But it did not work.
He then told his girlfriend to call 911. She did, but as she was talking to first responders she witnessed her partner of seven years begin to lose consciousness.
Joshua (left) was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital after rescuers responded to his girlfriend’s 911 call. He is pictured here with Nathan (right)
‘I was on the phone with the paramedics. I told them: “He’s purple. He’s gone!”‘ Cierra said.
Still, she performed CPR to try to save him, and the first responders walked her through it.
‘I laid him down. I was trying to tell our son to leave the room. I was telling our son to go get someone,’ Cierra recalled, her voice shaking.
It took around eight or nine minutes for the 911 responders to arrive. ‘By the time the ambulance got there, I immediately looked at my phone,’ Cierra said.
Cierra described her boyfriend as an ‘awesome father’ and said that her son has struggled to understand his father’s passing
Cierra (left) and Joshua (right) were planning to leave their Santa Rosa home the day after Joshua experienced a fatal asthma attack
She knew, looking at how much time had passed since she first called 911, that her boyfriend’s chances were not good.
But paramedics revived him at the scene. ‘When I saw the monitor show the heart rate, I started bawling,’ she said, explaining that she felt hope.
Joshua was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, and Cierra went with him. A hospital staff member warned her that her boyfriend’s condition was bad. She remembers them saying: ‘He’s on tubes right now. He has no brain function.’
Joshua’s condition continued to worsen for two days, at which point doctors performed an MRI. After confirming that he had no neurological function, they held a meeting with Joshua’s loved ones explaining the severity of the situation to them.
Cierra said that the hardest part was hearing a doctor speaking with them say: ‘Everything that made Josh who he was would be gone.’
Joshua’s loved ones decided then to remove him from life support, and he died shortly thereafter on Sunday around 1.30pm.
Cierra said that talking to her son about his father’s death has been gut-wrenching.
‘At first he didn’t understand,’ Cierra explained. ‘I let him go see his father [before he was cremated]. I thought it’d be a good idea to let him say goodbye.’
She added that she wants her son to treasure his father’s ashes, saying: ‘[Nathan] was his pride and joy. He loved that little boy.’