Weather Updates

Denise Crosby: Aurora family determined ‘to bring Andy home’

When his large Aurorfamily found out thAndres 'Andy' ZepedIII (above) ihad only days live they banned together bring him home.

When his large Aurora family found out that Andres 'Andy' Zepeda III (above) ihad only days to live, they banned together to bring him home. | Photo courtesy~Zepeda family

storyidforme: 24617782
tmspicid: 9036849
fileheaderid: 4113208

Updated: February 26, 2012 8:04AM

As I write this column late Tuesday afternoon, Andy Zepeda Jr. is on the journey of a lifetime. When you read this Wednesday morning, if all goes as planned, he will have arrived at his destination.

It is a race against time, for the 44-year-old man is coming home to die.

And driving this final trek is his large Aurora-area family — those who are literally in the van with him as they rush to get him back home from California; and those waiting here to embrace him with their love.

“The hospital bed will be waiting for him when he gets here,” said his sister, Edith Zepeda. “As soon as he gets in the house, he will have all of us around him. Whatever God’s plan is after that, if he has a little while or longer, we will be with him.”

Andy Zepeda Jr., a concierge at a Palm Springs hotel, tumbled from a ladder while hanging Christmas decorations in December and cracked several ribs. As weeks progressed and he continued to feel worse, he returned to the doctor, only to discover he was in the final stages of liver failure.

Doctors gave him two to five days to live.

When his parents, Andy Sr. and Christina Zepeda of Montgomery, heard the news, they immediately flew to his side Saturday morning, only to find there was little they could do but honor their son’s last request.

“Mom, please take me home,” Christina Zepeda recalled the emergency room plea.

“Once he said those words,” she added, “I knew we would do whatever we had to do to get him back here.”

Doctors, however, would not allow the seriously ill man to fly. And so, Andy’s large extended and immediate family, who come from a strong military and police background that includes four Aurora officers, banned together to figure out how they could pull this off so quickly.

Because of health concerns of their own, the parents could not make the drive, so they jetted home while the rest of the clan pulled money together to fly out three siblings — Teresa and Domonick Zepeda and Rose Ramirez — along with cousin Cindy Gonzales Martinez to California. Arriving in Palm Springs Monday morning, they worked with the hospital to help turn a rented minivan into a makeshift ambulance that included an air mattress and pain medication for the long ride home.

Stopping only for food, gas and restroom breaks, the group has been driving straight through since 3 p.m. Monday — except for one 45-minute interruption in Albuquerque N. M. when they hit bad weather.

“Every minute counts,” said Andy’s cousin Mike Zepeda, who is a West Chicago police officer.

Unable to even open his eyes as the journey began, the drivers report that, as he gets closer to home, Andy seems to be gaining a little strength — even sitting up at times.

Edith estimates the van will pull in some time early Wednesday morning. Hospice is on standby.

The cross country journey, Edith added, is being monitored closely via Facebook, where hundreds of family members and friends are following the travelers’ progress, as well as offering support and prayers.

Andy has no insurance, so a fund has been set up at Old Second Bank to help with expenses. Donations may be sent c/o Cindy Edwards, The Andy Zepeda Benefit Fund, Old Second National Bank, 1200 Douglas Road, Oswego, IL 60543.

“We are not perfect; no family is,” said Edith. “But when the chips are down, we are there for each other. We were determined to bring Andy home.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.