For the media

A father and son’s fight against COVID-19

By The Health News Team | April 23, 2020
A father and son’s fight against COVID-19

Julio Sepulveda (center) with his family and caregivers in front of Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.

In April, Julio Sepulveda, 39, began experiencing mild symptoms of a low-grade fever and shortness of breath that led to a life-changing experience.

When he was struggling to breathe independently, he decided to seek treatment at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, where he tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. He had no idea that within a few days, his father would be admitted for the same symptoms.

“I thought everything was going well while I was in the hospital until I went to the intensive care unit. Then I knew this was more serious,” Julio says. “When they told me I tested positive, I wasn’t scared at all because I was already starting to feel better with the oxygen I received.”

His condition took a turn, however, and he wasn’t able to maintain adequate respiratory function. Julio had to undergo endotracheal intubation to permit air to pass freely and ventilate his lungs.

Meanwhile, his father was prescribed medication and a nebulizer by a different medical provider, after having a severe cough for two days. Once the medication stopped helping, he asked his grandson, Julio’s son, to take him to Sharp Chula Vista’s Emergency Department.

“I wasn’t scared for myself, but I was scared for my son. I love him so much,” says Julio’s father. The pair were placed in separate, negative pressure rooms and were unable to communicate because Julio was intubated.

After displaying signs of improvement, Julio’s father left the hospital a few days later. He decided to check in to a local hotel, using San Diego County’s temporary lodging resources, and was able to self-isolate while his son remained in the ICU for two additional days.

Reyna Gomez, a respiratory therapist with Sharp Chula Vista, played an integral role in Julio’s care.

“I knew he was the son of another patient and that we had to get them home together,” Gomez says. “It really hit me how this virus is affecting people without regard for their age, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.”

Reconnecting with a caregiver
Gomez and Julio were reunited in the elevator as he was preparing to leave the hospital.

“You may not remember me, but I was the respiratory therapist that worked to extubate you,” Gomez said to him. Julio immediately broke down in tears and began thanking the health care workers after seeing them out of their personal protective equipment (PPE) for the first time. Gomez brought down a walker for Julio, but he proudly affirmed, “I’ve got this,” as he happily greeted his son at their vehicle.

“I knew he had a fight in him when I was working with him in the ICU,” Gomez says, “but seeing how true that was and how much spark he had while leaving our hospital was awesome.”

Feeling good about the future
Both Julio and his father are optimistic about their recoveries and plan to donate their blood to help current patients with COVID-19 have a fighting chance. Sharp HealthCare is joining the San Diego Blood Bank to collect convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19.

“It’s a second chance at life and I feel great,” Julio says. “I want to thank all of the staff at Sharp Chula Vista because they were a big part of it.”

Looking for ways to support our caregivers? Donate to the Sharp COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. Your contribution will help supply medical teams with needed resources as they respond to this crisis in our community.

For the news media: To interview Julio about his family’s experience with COVID-19 for an upcoming story, please contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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