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‘She is an angel.’ Sudden death of Escalon cheerleader leaves family, school reeling

Joana Vazquez
Joana Vazquez

A candlelight vigil was planned Wednesday evening at Escalon High School for grieving the loss of cheerleader Joana Vazquez.

The Escalon High senior died Monday from a serious medical issue, according to a post by Escalon Unified School District, which said the school has lost a member of its family.

The student’s family said Vazquez suffered a brain hemorrhage at home early Friday morning and was taken to Doctors Hospital in Manteca, where she lost consciousness. She was transferred to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. The teenager underwent two surgeries that attempted to save her life but she died at the hospital Monday, said Deicy Jimenez, her aunt.

“She is an angel and there are a lot of kids that are going to receive her organs,” Jimenez said. “She is still alive in us and in others.”

Unknown to her family, the cheerleader registered as an organ donor when she applied for her drivers license. The family was told at the hospital up to 60 individuals, most likely children, would receive badly needed organs and tissue as a result, Jimenez said.

Vazquez attended school in Oakdale before the family moved to Escalon last year. According to a gofundme account in her name, Joana’s priorities were doing well in the classroom and “worrying about her GPA.” Vazquez hoped that good scores on entrance exams would allow her to attend California State University, Stanislaus, in the fall.

Along with her cheerleading activities, Vazquez participated in track and field. “Maybe she was not the smartest in the class but she did try her best,” her aunt said. The family said she was shy, with a keen sense of humor and loving attitude.

Jimenez said the family learned at the hospital that Joana, who turned 18 on Aug. 28, was born with a blood vessel disorder called arterio-venous malformation. She woke up around 3 a.m. Friday with a severe headache and was able to wake up her mother before she collapsed.

Vazquez had been scheduled for cheerleading Friday at the Escalon Cougars football game at Ripon. “We love you Joana and you will never be forgotten,” said a post on the EHS Cougar Cheer Facebook page.

The football team also sent its condolences on its Twitter page.

The student is survived by her parents, Ana and Francisco Vazquez, a 10-year-old brother Javier and 7-year-old sister Emma.

Funeral services are set for Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Church in Ripon.

Ken Carlson covers county government and health care for The Modesto Bee. His coverage of public health, medicine, consumer health issues and the business of health care has appeared in The Bee for 15 years.
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