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'I Woke Up Gasping For Air': 28 Family Members Contract COVID-19, Father Dies From Illness

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The night before Father's Day, 60-year-old Vidal Garay died after contracting the novel coronavirus — the illness potentially made deadly by a rare form of anemia and a recent battle with leukemia.

Vidal Garay
Vidal Garay, 60, died the day before Father's Day after contracting COVID-19. (Credit: Garay Family Photo)

"My dad couldn't get up to eat," Richard Garay said. "He couldn't even get up to take over-the-counter medication."

Richard, 27, said he started to feel mild symptoms on May 29, but they got progressively worse.

"Within days, our health just deteriorated," he said. "It went from, you know, one day being OK to I can't breathe, I can't get up, I cannot eat."

Richard said he and his dad lost their sense of smell and taste before testing positive for COVID-19 on June 4. The two spent days quarantined together, until one day when Richard woke up in a panic.

"I mean, I woke up gasping for air," he said. "I couldn't breathe."

Richard said his father, who had remained in bed throughout their quarantine, used what energy he had to sit up and ask if he was OK.

"I'm like, 'Dad, I don't think I'm going to make it,'" Richard said. "That was the last thing I told my father, and the last thing my dad saw was his son suffocating."

Richard was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, but has since been released and was recovering at home.

Vidal was also eventually taken the hospital, but died after two weeks of care. He leaves behind his wife, three sons and four grandchildren.

"My father always raised us to be, you know, to be proud of our country, to be proud of our circumstances, regardless of how they are," Richard said. "To embrace life, to have honor, to love people."

Richard said 28 extended family members have tested positive for COVID-19, most recovering at home. The family doesn't know how the they contracted the virus, but think it could have been from a family member who visited in mid-May or from a caretaker who comes to care for Richard's mother.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral costs.

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