Art auction helps Arvada teacher who nearly died from flu

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ARVADA, Colo. — A school community rallied around an Arvada teacher who nearly died from the flu virus.

Naomi Esquibel, 32, spent 40 days in hospitals in New Mexico and Colorado.

Now, her students, friends and family are trying to help her with her mounting medical bills.

At the Goddard School of Arvada, hundreds of miniature Matisse’s, Salvador Dali duplicates and Mark Rothko reproductions could be found for an art and silent auction.

“We have 10 classrooms. Each child made two pieces of artwork. We’re selling each for $10 apiece,” said Rachael Smith, the school director.

But their purpose went beyond art.

The auction was intended to raise money for teacher Naomi Esquibel.

“There were a couple of weeks there, we didn’t think she’d make it,” said Smith. “We’re past that scary part. We know she’s alive and on the mend.”

“That’s what I thought it was. I thought it was just the flu and you’ll get over it,” said Naomi’s dad, Fred Esquibel.

But instead, he said Naomi got worse.

While she was visiting her father in Taos for Christmas, she was airlifted from a hospital in Taos to Santa Fe — her condition was touch-and-go.

“They flew me out here to the University of Colorado,” said Naomi. “Then, they told him there was a chance I could die on the flight.”

She was sick with H1N1, then pneumonia.

Her lungs filled with fluid the consistency of peanut butter.

A tracheotomy allowed her to breathe. Then, came a lung machine. Her survival was grim.

“They pretty much expected me to die. That’s where they were. Even when they put me on the ECMO machine, they told my dad it’d be a 50-50 chance,” she said.

Most of the 40 days she spent hospitalized she was sedated, unaware of her condition.

Yesterday, she moved out of the hospital and into the Broomfield Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on N. Sheridan Road.

Her two roommates visited her and they shared a few laughs.

It is here, where she will regain lung capacity and muscle strength.

“God is good. The power of prayer,” said Fred.

And the power of community also for most.

Theauction of art and donations will go far in helping Naomi’s medical bills, which are in the thousands.

“It’s been humbling. It’s great to know you’re loved,” said Naomi. “I can’t wait to get back to work. I miss them.”

The school raised about $5,800 Saturday.

Her bill at the University of Colorado Hospital alone is $880,000. She was thankful for insurance.

In Colorado, 1,393 people in 52 counties have been hospitalized with flu so far this season.

But the state says the number of cases peaked in early January.

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