A 4-year-old Texas boy lost his dad, then mom to coronavirus. His grandmother's message to the world: 'Take COVID seriously.'
Raiden Gonzalez will be turning 5 years old in a few days, and while he will be surrounded by love and support, he will be missing his parents.
After a year filled with tragedy, friends and family will help Raiden celebrate his birthday with a "roar and wave" — a dinosaur themed drive-by parade. Raiden's maternal grandmother Rozie Salinas told USA TODAY that it's expected to be a huge event, a way of celebrating Raiden's birthday without exposing him to risk.
“Nowadays you can’t tell who’s sick and who’s not,” Salinas said.
Raiden's parents, Adan and Mariah Gonzalez, died months apart this year after contracting COVID-19, Salinas said. Both were under the age of 35.
Raiden now lives with his grandmother in San Antonio. He "just wishes he could have them back," Salinas said.
She tells the boy his parents are angels; he knows they're "now watching over us and protecting us.”
The memory of their deaths is still raw.
When Adan was fighting the virus in June, quarantine kept Salinas from comforting her daughter in person.
After his death, Mariah and Raiden moved in. Mariah felt fine until October, when she started having chest pains, which first seemed like anxiety attacks.
They quickly escalated.
As Salinas waited with her daughter for EMS to arrive, she said she rubbed Mariah's shoulders.
“Just sit here with me," the 29-year-old asked her mother, she recalled.
The last thing Salinas remembers her daughter saying: "I don’t want to hurt any more.”
Mariah suffered complications when she arrived at the hospital. At first, she tested negative for the virus, then positive.
She died the morning after she was taken to the hospital.
“I didn’t think that was going to be the last time I saw her,” Salinas said. "She passed too quick ... we just weren’t expecting that."
Her advice to those who hear Raiden's story: “They need to take COVID seriously because it’s no joke.”