Robert Molina and his father, Robert Molina Sr., contracted the virus and were hospitalized within days of each other

By Joelle Goldstein
July 20, 2020 01:24 PM
Robert Molina III and Robert Molina Jr.
| Credit: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

A father and son in Texas are speaking out about the brutal realities of the coronavirus after both survived a "terrifying" bout with the illness.

At the end of June, Robert Molina Sr. and his son Robert Molina both contracted COVID-19 within days of each other, according to a news release from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

After a week-long stay in the hospital, where they were put on oxygen and a number of COVID-19-specific treatments, both Molina men were discharged and have since been sharing their story in hopes that others will take the virus seriously.

"For it to hit my family like this was unbelievable," Molina, 37, told Texas Health. "This disease is terrifying, and I don’t wish it on anybody."

The father-son duo's bout with the illness began in early June when Molina showed up to his father's Garland home after a long day at work and was experiencing a cough.

"I just assumed it was allergies," he told Texas Health. “But then the cough got worse, and I ended up with a high fever, chills and body aches."

Robert Molina Sr. and his son Robert Molina
| Credit: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

While he was sick, Molina said his 59-year-old father was frequently around him as he provided care and acted "like my nurse."

"My dad was... coming into the bedroom to check on me and everything," he recalled to Texas Health.

Though Molina had no underlying health conditions, the North Texas resident decided to visit an urgent care clinic and within a few days, he had tested positive for COVID-19. By June 19, Molina was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Two days later, Molina Sr. also found himself in the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 — a diagnosis that his son believes was because of him and his exposure to the virus.

"It was far from being a terrible sinus infection. It was much worse," Molina shared with Texas Health.

While in the hospital, Molina was given supplemental oxygen but still managed to develop pneumonia. His breathing later started to drastically deteriorate, so his medical team decided to give him COVID-19 convalescent plasma and remdesivir as a treatment.

According to Texas Health, convalescent plasma has become "a more common treatment option for a novel virus in a patient doing poorly and facing possible death."

"He was battling pneumonia, and his respiratory system was jeopardized," Texas Health Dallas infectious disease specialist Dr. Katia Brown explained. "In hopes of avoiding deterioration of his respiratory status, we opted to give him all available COVID-19-specific treatments."

RELATED VIDEO: Father and Son Reunite with Family After Seven Weeks in Hospital for Cancer Treatment

For Molina, the choice to receive the treatment was terrifying, but at that point, he said he didn't have many other options.

"I was a little nervous, but I made the decision to do it," Molina recalled to Texas Health. "It was a do-or-die situation."

Luckily, the treatment worked, and within 24 hours, Molina started to feel better — both physically and mentally.

"Before I got to the hospital, I hadn’t slept in days," he explained. "I had a fever of 102 degrees, I couldn’t stay hydrated and I was fighting just to breathe. That plasma treatment provided me with the best sleep I’ve had in a long time."

Added Molina: "I actually had energy, and I was improving."

In the meantime, Molina Sr. was fighting his own battle with the virus in the same hospital.

Despite having an underlying health condition of diabetes, Molina Sr. had a much less severe case of COVID-19 that only required IV fluids and supplemental oxygen to assist with his shortness of breath, according to Texas Health.

By June 26, both Molina men were discharged from the hospital. As they exited, they were treated to a departure ceremony by the staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Thinking about the thousands in Texas who already lost their lives to the disease, especially those who lived with underlying health conditions, Molina said he couldn't help but feel blessed about his father's survival.

"With my dad living with diabetes, it could have been worse," Molina, a father of two teen boys himself, told Texas Health. "But because he knew what I was going through, it made him more aware."

"We survived. That’s all that matters," added Molina Sr. "We get to be back with our friends and loved ones."

As they continue to recover at home, Molina is using his voice to spread awareness about the virus and encourage others to take proper safety measures to curb the spread.

"I just want everyone to be precautious. Wear a mask. Do what people tell you to do to protect yourself. It's not a joke,” he told Fox's KDFW. "You never know what's going to happen. You could have a mild case or a strong case. Age doesn't matter. We're here living speaking it up."

As of Monday afternoon, there have been over 3.7 million cases and 140,373 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times. In Texas, at least 338,036 cases and 4,033 deaths have been reported, according to the Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.