CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A South Bay grandfather is battling COVID-19 far from home after he flew to Mexico to bid goodbye to his dying brother.
After five decades as a server for special events, first at the Hotel Del Coronado and then at Sheraton San Diego on Harbor Island, Hector Villasenor, 74, found himself without work during the pandemic.
"He's actually one of those people who can't not work. Mentally, it was very tough to get used to," said his son, Hector Villasenor.
His son says his father's tough year became even more painful with news from Mexico City.
"My dad learned his brother was on his last days. He had been diagnosed with cancer. My father had to fly out. He is very close with his family," said his son.
Villasenor flew out November 27, staying at the home of his brother, who passed away December 2. Within days, seven family members were sick, including Villasenor. His first symptom was a cough, and then a fever and breathing issues. He was treated with oxygen and tested positive for COVID-19. His son recalls a distressing Facetime call.
"He felt like, talking for 10 seconds, he was running a marathon," said Hector.
A few days later, Villasenor's oxygen levels dipped and he was taken to the ER and placed on a ventilator.
"It's a feeling of helplessness, fear, anxiety. It's a horrible feeling," said Hector.
After 10 days in the ICU, Villasenor is critical but stable. Family members have started a Gofundme campaign to ensure his care.
"We've already paid over $20,000. That's pretty much just a down payment," said Hector.
It's not clear how much Villasenor's US medical insurance is going to cover in Mexico.
For loved ones back home, it is now a painful waiting game, after the cruelest of twists.
"He wants to say goodbye to his brother. Now he's fighting for his life, and we're facing the probability we may have to say goodbye," said Hector.
Villasenor, a grandfather of 9 was hoping to retire sometime in 2021. He did not have any underlying conditions.