A California grandfather died from COVID-19 earlier this month after his family organized a party for his 75th birthday that resulted in him and 18 other relatives being infected with the virus.
Ruben Valadez celebrated in his home surrounded by his family on January 5 but soon afterward, he and other family members began to show symptoms.
After his condition worsened, the San Diego man was taken to the hospital where he tested positive for coronavirus.
He spent four days in hospital being treated before he passed away from the illness on January 15.
‘He used to love to see all his grandkids in the house running around and he used to love to see all his sons gather around the house and cook some carne asadas,’ his son Carlos told NBC San Diego of the decision to host the birthday party, which had been Ruben’s choice.
It is not known if anyone at the party had been showing symptoms of coronavirus at the time.
Yet since then, Ruben, his wife, children, and grandchildren have all begun to test positive.
‘My 12-year-old daughter, she was checking on him every day and writing down his oxygen and temperature and he was good,’ Carlos explained, but his father’s condition quickly deteriorated.
In a GoFundMe to raise funds for funeral expenses, Ruben, known by the nickname ‘Don Ruben’, is described as ‘a hardworking man’ and ‘the heart of the family’.
‘It was easy for him to make a small impact on your life with his wise words and stories of what he went through to get his 9 kids a life they deserved, man of his word, he did,’ wrote his granddaughter Melissa Valadez on the page that has raised more than $10,000 as of Thursday morning.
‘I think the best thing he left to me is how to be a great man,’ Carlos said of his father. ‘He was a great dad, a great friend and a hard worker.’
The retired construction worker even volunteered at local parks to help clean up.
‘He didn’t want to feel worthless, so he kind of went to the park and picked up cans and recycled,’ Carlos said.
In a Facebook post after his father’s death, Carlos also shared a picture of them together as he thanked Ruben for being his ‘best friend’.
‘That person who taught me and gave me advice to be a good person, humble and more than anything a father in this life,’ he wrote. ‘I will never forget you and you will always be in my heart.’
Carlos said that he and his wife and two children have been taking care of the other 18 family members who have fallen ill but he has now returned to work to help provide for the weekend.
He believes they were immune after already being infected with the virus in June.
‘Since my dad passed away until now, we’ve been back and forth dropping off food and medicine to my family members and, really, until now I haven’t had time to realize what happened,’ he said, adding that his mother is recovering but is struggling with the heartbreak at the loss of her husband.
On Wednesday, San Diego County reported a record number of coronavirus deaths and California’s outbreak worsens even further.
The 65 new fatalities surpassed the previous single-day record of 62 deaths reported on New Year’s Eve.
‘The majority of the COVID-19 deaths we are reporting today occurred in the past two weeks, which suggests that illness onset for the individuals who passed away coincided with the winter holidays,’ said Wilma J. Wooten, the county public health officer.
‘While we anticipated that deaths would go up at the beginning of the year, it is tragic to see the devastating impact of the virus on our community.’
Statewide, California has reported more than three million COVID-19 infections and 34,433 fatalities as of Wednesday.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Frances Mulraney