4-year-old featured in Season for Caring dies from cancer complications

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez lost his little girl on Thursday morning.

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles. Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles. She died on Thursday.
Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Emely, 4, whose mother passed away in August, was diagnosed with leukemia in early December. She quickly developed a respiratory infection and died four weeks later at Dell Children’s Medical Center.

Emely had struggled with several medical conditions throughout her life, but the bright and bubbly girl, who had Down syndrome and loved giving as many hugs as she could to everyone she could, had just entered the Lucy Reed Pre-Kindergarten School and was thriving with the help of her dad and several in-home nurses.

Just before Emely’s diagnosis, Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez, 26, had started to get back on his feet after losing his wife, Adriana, to cervical cancer earlier in the year. He had spent nearly two years taking care of her, while also raising Emely and trying to make enough money as a painter to support them.

The Rodriguez-Lopez family is part of the Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring program, which highlights the needs of 12 local families and helps hundreds of other through nonprofit agencies. The Rodriguez-Lopez family was nominated by Hospice Austin.

While Emely was in the hospital, an anonymous family donated enough money to cover Rodriguez-Lopez’ rent for the coming year, as well as a van to replace his car, which needed repairs. He had also received gifts, gift cards and painting supplies from the Butler Bros., a local brand studio.

“We deal with death and dying and bereaved families every day. This is just beyond unfair,” says Melinda Marble, communications coordinator of Hospice Austin. “Jacob has handled himself so beautifully with Adriana’s death. It was so hard for him … When a lot of people would have curled up in a little ball and pulled the covers over his head, he decided to lose weight, to make himself fit, to go back to work. He decided to never cry in front of Emely. He did all this for his little girl.”

In the coming weeks, he will add a photo of Emely next to the one of his wife on the altar he has set up in Emely’s bedroom. Before he started staying at the hospital night after night to be with Emely, he would buy flowers every three days for his wife. Now, he’ll need a bigger vase.

Donations made to Season for Caring in Emely’s honor will go to her funeral expenses and to cover travel expenses for Rodriguez-Lopez’s parents in McAllen to be with him.

“All the people who donated and especially the family who made the anonymous donation will really ease him during this time of grief,” Marble said.  “It takes a little pressure off of him and he can decide how he wants to move forward.”

Emely Rodriguez-Aviles is the second Season for Caring recipient to die since the Season for Caring launched on Nov. 27. Rosalba Martínez-López, a 37-year-old mother of four and grandmother, died Dec. 2 from cervical cancer.

To find out more about the Rodriguez-Lopez family or fulfill one of their needs, contact Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org.

Season for Caring

It’s not too late to make your Season for Caring donation. Donate now through Jan. 31.

• To make a monetary donation to Season for Caring, send it to P.O. Box 50066, Austin, TX 78763-0066 or go online to statesman.com/season-for-caring-2016/.

• Find more stories, videos and photos of all the families at statesman.com/season-for-caring-2016/ .

• To learn more about making a donation of an item or a service, call 512-445-3590 or email community@statesman.com.