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July 2024

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Crystal (Martinez) Lopez

Being raised in a community where your history connects to every part of your present, it’s difficult to find the courage to leave. It is similarly difficult to forge a path and stay.
Questa del Rio News is committed to highlighting different members of our community, both those who have created their paths and planted their own roots in the community that raised them, and also those who have pursued lives outside of the community — through our Representando series. This series is dedicated to those who are Representando al Norte in various facets of life.

For our February issue, we spoke with Crystal (Martinez) Lopez.

Upon graduating from Questa High School in 2004, Crystal moved to Colorado Springs to attend college. “I always knew I wanted to work in the medical field. At first, I thought about physical therapy or physiology, but quickly narrowed down my interest to respiratory therapy,” she says.

At the time, she wasn’t able to find a respiratory therapy program in Colorado, which influenced her to move to Albuquerque to pursue that degree. “I worked at the University of New Mexico (UNM) hospital and intended to complete my education and move back to Colorado,” she says, but life had other plans.
“I met my now husband Mark at school and work. We were classmates and both worked at UNM. One day we were giving each other a report-out and he asked me how life is going. That’s when we both found out we were single and he asked me out, and the rest is history,” Crystal says. The two were married in 2011, and currently have two kids: Marcos, 17 and Leilani, who is 8.

While both Mark and Crystal are respiratory therapists by trade, Crystal says she has a strong passion for growing her career through multiple disciplines. She currently works as a registered cardiovascular invasive specialist (RCIS), specializing in cardiac catheterization. She also continues to work in respiratory therapy part-time, at UNMH.

Speaking in depth about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their family, Crystal says, “in order to see and truly feel the impact of the pandemic, you would’ve had to work in healthcare.”

Every day, she and her husband worked on the front lines, coming in contact with patients who needed help, while also knowing that by helping them, they would potentially be putting themselves at risk, as well as their children.

“It was psychologically such a difficult thing to navigate. We didn’t know what this thing was, or why patients were dying in numbers. Mark was working directly with COVID-19 patients who were being intubated,” she says. “There was a point where I just knew… someone in my family would inevitably die from this, and unfortunately, we did lose my grandma Eloisa…”

When asked what one of the hardest things about the two years during the pandemic was, she says, “seeing people at their worst, who are sick, who are scared. It’s my job to make them better, but sometimes no matter what you do, you can’t help them. That’s definitely the toughest part of this job.”
With vaccines, medication, and natural immunity, the world has transitioned out of the COVID-19 pandemic and into an endemic stage. When asked what her biggest lessons from this experience were, she says it helped her see what was important in life.

“Now, I realize the time we have with our kids is so short, they’re growing so fast—and soon they will be out of the house. Now we just really want to value our time with our kids, our families, the people who we love and mean the most to us,” she says.

Living in the South Valley in Albuquerque, Crystal says that while Questa will always be her home, she feels the same connectedness to her community and family where her husband’s family is from. Together, they love being outdoors hunting, fishing, and celebrating with Matanzas (gathering to kill and cook animals). “I joke and say I married a country boy because he loves all the things we did back home.” Questa still serves as a place of peace and solace, “my kids and close friends love Questa and it’s where we go to escape and get away, camping and hunting. It’s a part of us and it will always be.”