FARMINGTON – A Four Corners man known for his community spirit and penchant for volunteering underwent brain surgery earlier this week, and community members have started a GoFundMe to offset the expensive procedure.
Mark Romero, who also coaches youth basketball teams in Durango and Farmington, started having difficulty walking about six months ago, his wife, Kristi Romero, said. A CT scan revealed there was a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid that was putting pressure on his brain.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with how wonderful everyone in the community has been, the support from friends and family in Farmington and Durango,” Kristi said.
Kristi and Mark both grew up in Durango – her as a sixth-generation Durangoan and Mark as a fourth-generation resident. They moved to Farmington about 15 years ago for work, when Mark was hired by the city of Farmington as a code compliance officer. The couple have also raised their children – Brevan, 17, and Kyla, 15, in Farmington.
The fund, created by Georgette Allen, a spokeswoman for the city of Farmington, had raised $4,625 of the $35,000 goal as of Wednesday afternoon. Allen said the fundraising goal was the out-of-pocket medical expense the family is expecting to pay.
Kristi said doctors believe Mark could have been born with a cyst and a recent fall in November or December caused it to shift and block the cerebrospinal fluid from draining properly.
She said it took a few months to get a diagnosis, and then surgery was put on hold for a while because the San Juan Regional Medical Center was conducting limited medical procedures because of the coronavirus pandemic. She added the hospital continued to carefully monitor his symptoms, and he was able to schedule his surgery as soon as the hospital’s non-COVID procedures were expanded.
Mark had surgery Monday and was expected to leave the hospital Thursday, she said. The recovery time will be six to eight weeks, and he will need annual check-ups for the rest of his life.
With the hospital’s limited visitation to limit the possible spread of the virus, Kristi said she has not been able to see her husband since the surgery. She added the hospital staff has been helpful and coordinated video chats for the couple.
“It’s hard not being able to be in the hospital with him, but I know during this time, (the hospital) wants to keep everyone healthy and safe,” Kristi said.
She said the Farmington Police Department, the division Mark works under, has been supportive. People in the community even started a meal calendar so she won’t have to worry about cooking when he returns from the hospital.
Allen, who worked with Mark for about six years, described him as a model coworker who is always willing to go above and beyond.
“Even if it didn’t fall in his area of work, he’s willing to jump in and help, always with a positive attitude,” she said.
With his work as a code compliance officer, Mark since 2014 would annually organize a volunteer day to clean the yards of elderly and disabled citizens, she said. Mark and his fellow officers received an award in 2019 for cleaning an elderly man’s yard who was not able to do it himself. She said Mark also helped to deliver food to local nonprofits during the Farmington Police Department’s annual food drive.
“He’s very humble and would not come out and ask for help. Had I not asked, it probably wouldn’t have come up,” Allen said of his surgery.