Richard Garay tested positive for the coronavirus around the same time as his father, Vidal Garay, got sick in early June. Just two weeks later, Vidal died of the highly contagious respiratory virus, CNN reports.
Since then, at least 28 members of the family have tested positive.
“I just believe it happened through minimal contact,” Richard, 27, said, adding that his family had been following quarantine policies and that his dad visited three households not knowing he was infected.
There were no big parties, no get-togethers, Richard explained. Some of his father’s visits to other households lasted no more than 10 minutes.
Before testing positive for the virus, Richard and Vidal lost their senses of smell and taste. And within days, they were bedridden.
“It went from running nose to headache to full-blown fever,” Richard told KTLA-TV. “It was painful to watch my dad’s health decline so drastically in front of me. My father is my best friend.”
“My dad couldn’t get up to eat,” Richard told CBS. “He couldn’t even get up to take over-the-counter medication.”
“Within days, our health just deteriorated. It went from one day being OK to I can’t breathe, I can’t get up, I cannot eat.”
Richard, who told CNN he and his father decided to quarantine together after they tested positive to avoid spreading the virus to other members of the family, described a particularly frightening moment when he woke up, struggling to breathe. His father used his last bit of energy to sit up and check on him.
“I woke up gasping for air. I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it.’ That was the last thing I told my father, and the last thing my dad saw was his son suffocating.”
His father died on June 20, a day before Father’s Day, after two weeks of hospital care on a ventilator. Richard was at a different hospital and on oxygen most of the time, CNN says.
The family has set up a GoFundMe to raise money for Vidal’s funeral costs. They’ve already well surpassed their goal of US$15,000.
“Vidal dedicated his life to always providing for his family,” the page reads. “He always emphasized that he started from hard upbringings and, despite his many struggles, he would always make sure that his family came first.”
His wife, children and grandchildren have all recovered from the virus. Richard’s children and pregnant sister-in-law have also recovered from the virus, according to KTLA-TV.
“I don’t want my father’s death to be in vain,” Richard told the local broadcaster. “I want people to understand coronavirus is a real thing.
“If you think it’s fake, you’re going to continue to do what you’re doing and not protect yourself. You don’t want to be in a position where you find yourself in a hospital bed … before it’s too late.”
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