A group of City Heights students are rallying behind one of their classmates who lost his father to COVID-19 last week.
Rolando Brito, 17, is a junior at Hoover High School. He’s been a member of the Cesar Chavez Service Club since middle school. The club is designed to help develop youth into successful leaders in the community. The manager of the club, Jonathan Burgos, told NBC 7 Brito shared his father’s diagnosis with him last month.
Rolando’s mother, Tomasa Trujillo, said she was the first in the family to experience COVID-19 symptoms. She tested positive for the virus on Dec. 17. She said she had flu-like symptoms and isolated away from family. Trujillo said Rolando’s father, Alejo Brito, and his brother tested positive for the virus a few days later. She said Alejo Brito, 52, had an uncontrollable cough, muscle pain and difficulty breathing. He was rushed to Sharp Memorial Hospital in Kearny Mesa.
Trujillo said by Dec. 29 doctors said Alejo Brito had developed pneumonia and was put on a ventilator. A little more than three weeks later, Alejo Brito lost his battle with COVID-19.
Rolando told Burgos the news shortly after.
“I was just devastated because I thought he was on the mend and it seemed like he was possibly leaving the ICU, but things took a turn for the worst,” Burgos said. “I think there’s a special place in our hearts for that family.”
The Britos were a family of six. Ronaldo and his older sister are part of the special needs community. Rolando’s parents were both essential workers.
Burgos said the family’s loss hit close to home.
“I’m a father too, so to have kids of my own, the last thing I want to have happen is to pass away before being able to see them grow, so for him [Rolando] to share that with me, it really hurt to hear that,” Burgos explained.
He said Rolando’s classmates were also hurt by the news.
“The father would high five kids on the way to school. They have been in the community so long,” Burgos shared.
He said members of the Cesar Chavez Service Club asked him to start a GoFundMe page to help Ronaldo and his family with funeral expenses.
“I think it’s such a burden on someone’s shoulders to know that you can’t do something for someone you love, you know. I think that to be able to take that burden off their back will allow them to kind of heal more and that, in itself, would mean the world,” Burgos said. “Even though he [Alejo Brito] passed away, his legacy is still there and what he wanted for his family. We will try our best to continue that and help bring support.”
Trujillo has recovered from COVID-19, but said she feels traumatized by the virus. She doesn’t know how she may have become infected with COVID-19 and said the family stayed home and took safety precautions to protect themselves.
Burgos said he’s encouraging the community to continue to wear masks and physical distance to protect their neighbors and slow the spread of the virus.
“It reminds me that a lot of our families in City Heights are essential workers and so they're on the front lines; so, whether that means working at a restaurant, working at the grocery store, as a delivery person," Burgos said. "All the things that they have to do because they need to take care of their families, but still like they're putting themselves at risk to make sure that their families are okay."