A South Los Angeles couple died one day apart from each other after being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
Humberto Ruelas-Rivas, 60, died on Sunday, just before his 38-year-old wife Karina Bonilla died Monday.
“Within six days, I lost my father. And within eight hours, I lost my stepmother. And now I have five kids,” said Ruelas-Rivas’ daughter, Maria Ruelas of Downey.
Ruelas, 35, is now taking care of her five young siblings, ages 2 to 17, as well as her 30-year-old sister who was hospitalized with coronavirus and meanwhile had a stroke.
“It’s gonna be a struggle. I don’t have children of my own and now I know maybe this is the reason why,” Ruelas said.
She says her stepmother contracted COVID-19 first, likely from going to work. The fruit vendor Bonilla worked for allegedly had symptoms but decided not to self-isolate.
“She went to work and in less than a week she started presenting symptoms,” Ruelas said. “She went home and then my father started getting sick.”
When her father died, she wasn’t able to say goodbye or give him a hug or kiss, she says.
“Even though they’re deceased, the virus is still active in their bodies so you can’t touch the body,” Ruelas said. “I hope this story doesn’t repeat again. It’s devastating.”
Ruelas is engaged to be married but is now planning for a different life and is trying to gain legal custody of her siblings.
“I’m happy to do it in the memory of my father,” she said.
Her family has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for funeral and medical expenses.
Ruelas wants people to know that the virus is still killing people even as the state starts to reopen.
“I saw a lot of [people] without masks. That terrified me,” she said. “That virus took my family away.”