ORLANDO, Fla. – A man from Texas hospitalized with COVID-19 for 24 days after a family vacation to Orlando was released from the hospital last week.
A family vacation to Orlando, like a rollercoaster, went from an exciting high to a low when 42-year-old dad Roberto Vera wound up in the hospital with COVID-19.
“I just stood there looking at him with all the machines around him. And I just prayed and said, ‘God, give me the strength to talk to him without breaking down,’” Viri Gutierrez-Vera said.
Gutierrez-Vera visited her 42-year-old husband daily. It was not how this Texas family planned to end their Florida vacation.
“We had so much fun being in Orlando, experiencing Universal Studios, which we’ve never done before and then we go to go to the beach,” Gutierrez-Vera said. “My 9-year-old kept saying ‘we need to have our masks on’ and put on her mask. But all around us, it was rare to see someone with masks on.”
A rare sight for the family who vacationed to Orlando from Dallas, Texas. Masks were not mandated or required for visitors to attractions like theme parks and events in Orlando at the end of June.
Gutierrez-Vera is a mom of three and said her family started feeling ill on their drive back to Texas after spending two weeks in Florida.
“My oldest, she started getting sick and experiencing some headaches and fever, then my middle child with a fever. Soon after my husband. Before you know it, we were all feeling sick by the time we got home on July 1,” said Gutierrez-Vera.
Days later, Vera and her husband tested positive for COVID-19. The whole family experienced symptoms. It’s not clear where exactly they contracted the virus.
“I remember one day just trying to get up to feed my kids. I had to hold on to the walls to walk. I had a fever and could barely move. My kids, although they were sick, needed to eat. So as a mom, they needed my help and support,” Gutierrez-Vera said.
While Gutierrez-Vera and her kids started to recover, she said her husband Roberto only got worse with headaches, fever and trouble breathing. He was soon admitted to a hospital in Dallas.
“I remember when I took him to the hospital. He just looked at me and he was scared. I had my son with me, and the nurse said ‘you can’t go in there, you have your son and he can’t go in.’ I could see it in his eyes, he didn’t want to let go of me,” Gutierrez-Vera said.
Roberto was low on oxygen, he needed tubes and treatment to improve his breathing.
After being in quarantine, Gutierrez-Vera said she was able to visit her husband.
“The first time I went in to see him, he said, ‘I hope someone could see me and I hope that people can see me as an example that this isn’t fake. This is real and I don’t want anyone being here in the same situation’ and he was just crying, crying,” Gutierrez-Vera said.
Gutierrez-Vera and her mother-in-law were fully vaccinated before their trip to Florida. Her oldest daughter had an appointment upon their return, but Gutierrez-Vera’s husband was unvaccinated. She said he was hesitant to get the shot.
“Even though I was vaccinated and got sick, I got better within a week. My mother-in-law as well. And Roberto got worse. I feel like he is an example to show to people that you should get vaccinated,” Gutierrez-Vera said. “He would put it to the side, thinking he wasn’t going to get the virus. He would say, ‘I’m scared.’ He knows now, that’s not the way to think. You have to prioritize your health because when you do that, you’re prioritizing your family.”
Gutierrez-Vera said she and their children are waiting for dad to return home healthy.
“I know after all of this, Roberto can come home, and we’ll all look at these pictures and remember the good times and the awesome experiences we had in Florida,” Gutierrez-Vera said. “That was a vacation we wanted to remember forever. And I know it will be after all this.”
She said her 13-year-old daughter has an appointment to get the vaccine and when her husband is well enough, he also plans to get the shot.