A party to celebrate a San Diego grandfather's 75th birthday turned into a nightmare when more than 15 relatives tested positive for COVID-19, including the grandfather who died from the disease.
Carlos Valadez says he still has not fully processed that his father, Ruben Valadez, lovingly known as "Don Ruben" is gone.
"I think the best thing he left to me is how to be a great man," said Carlos Valadez about his father.
The family planned a house gathering for Ruben Valadez's 75th birthday on Jan. 5; his son says it was all his father wanted.
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"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," said Carlos Valadez.
But, everything went wrong when days later the family began to feel sick.
Photos: COVID-19 Spreads Among San Diego Family Infecting More than 15 Including Grandfather Who Did Not Survive
"My 12-year-old daughter, she was checking on him every day and writing down his oxygen and temperature and he was good," said Carlos Valadez.
Things worsened for Ruben Valadez and he was taken to the hospital. After four days in the hospital, the family patriarch died.
"He was a great dad, a great friend and a hard worker," said Carlos Valadez.
After Ruben Valadez's positive diagnosis, his wife, children and grandchildren began testing positive for COVID-19, too.
In all, Carlos Valadez said about 18 family members have since tested positive. He believes he, his wife and two daughters were immune this time around because they had already battled COVID-19 last June.
"Don Ruben" was a retired construction worker who cared for his community and would volunteer to clean up local parks.
"He didn't want to feel worthless, so he kind of went to the park and picked up cans and recycled," said Carlos Valadez.
In the last few days, Carlos Valadez returned to work to provide for his family. He's also trying to care for all of his sick relatives who are recovering at home.
"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," Carlos Valadez said as he reflected on his father's passing.
Carlos says his mom is recovering from her diagnosis, but it will be hard to mend her broken heart. The family is hoping all others who were infected will make a full recovery from the virus.
The Valadez family created an online fundraiser to collect money for funeral expenses.