Stricken MISD trustee home from the hospital

Frail from battle, Richard Peña still recovering from case of long-haul COVID-19

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Family and well-wishers gather to welcome Midlothian ISD trustee Richard Peña (second from right) home from the hospital on Thursday after a months-long battle with COVID-19. Peña was stricken with the disease in June, just a month after being elected to the school board.

More than three months after being stricken with COVID-19, Midlothian Independent School District trustee Richard Peña is finally home from the hospital.

The community gathered on Thursday to surprise Peña on his first day back home. Looking frail but in good spirits, Peña greeted the well-wishers with a smile.

Peña, a veteran of both the U.S. Marine Corps and Midlothian Police Department who is now a real estate agent with EXP Realty, was elected on May 1 to the MISD board of trustees. He was sworn in on May 17, but that was the only regular monthly meeting that he was able to attend.

Well-wishers hold up a sign welcoming Midlothian ISD trustee Richard Peña home from the hospital on Thursday after a months-long battle with COVID-19. Peña was stricken with the disease in June, just a month after being elected to the school board.

In mid-June, Peña came down with COVID. The symptoms grew steadily worse, and he was hospitalized on June 24. He was transferred from Methodist Midlothian Medical Center to Baylor Scott & White Heart Hospital in Plano.

Peña, who is 47 and a father of five, did not have any known pre-existing conditions.

His wife, Jeniffer, told KDFW television in August her husband had COVID-related pneumonia, extremely low oxygen levels, and a collapsed lung. He wasn’t able to speak to her because of a trach tube.

"Yeah, it’s very hard. It’s very shocking when you’re wake up every morning and your husband is not next to you and you don’t know when he’ll be back,” Jeniffer told the television station. "You know, when you see your husband with machines coming all out of his body and life support, basically.”

School board members kept Peña in their prayers throughout his illness. In July, when his condition was at its worst, trustees wore “Praying for Peña” T-shirts during their monthly meeting. The memory is still fresh of the loss of another MISD trustee, board president Carl Smith, who succumbed to COVID last December at age 77.

Peña retired from the city of Midlothian in 2019 after 20 years of service, 17 as a police officer. Peña attained the rank of sergeant and coordinated MISD’s school resource officer program.

In July 2016, Peña was honored by the Midlothian PD with the Lifesaving Award for saving the life of a 9-month-old girl who had stopped breathing.