Texas man dies in Arizona from COVID-19; family struggles to bring body home

Man loses life to a battle with COVID-19

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Rodney Vela moved to Arizona for opportunity.

The opportunity to start a new chapter with his girlfriend. The opportunity to find a job before the coronavirus started to spread through the state.

“He was having trouble finding work down here in San Antonio, so he thought maybe, by going over there, he would have a better chance,” said Jessica Rivera, Vela’s sister.

Rivera said her brother started working at a Home Depot in Mesa. On July 3, Vela was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19.

“To have to call the hospital and find out all that news,” said Rivera. “That day, the nurses had already told us we had to prepare for the worse, only because he was really bad.”

Her brother had pneumonia and was put into a medically-induced coma.

“Every day was, is this the day? Am I going to get that call?” said Rivera.

Nearly three weeks after being admitted to a Banner hospital, Vela lost his battle with COVID-19 on July 22. It was his 39th birthday.

“He was so loving and caring, he had the best sense of humor,” said Rivera.

“He was a really really good person and we just really miss him,” David Gonzales told our CBS-affiliate, KENS5, in San Antonio.

More than 900 miles away, Rivera said family members have felt helpless over the last month.

“Even though if we were there or he were here, we would still not be able to be in the hospital with him because of the virus. It’s just harder to know that he’s out there and we just feel like, he doesn’t deserve to just be disposed of as a nobody,” said Rivera.

Right now, Rivera said her brother’s body is in a mortuary. The family is working with a funeral home on arrangements, but funding his final trip back to Texas is now their fight.

“That’s what we fear the most, is not being able to bring him home at all, that’s what we don’t want,” said Rivera.

The family has set up a Go Fund Me to raise enough money to transport their loved one from Arizona to San Antonio to give him the proper services that he deserves.

“Please let your family know that you love them and care because tomorrow is never promised,” said Rivera. “This virus has affected so many families around the world and I don’t wish this hurt upon anybody.”

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