“This is real”: One Latino family fights for medical attention while battling COVID-19

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This video is a partnership of Univision Digital and Enlace Latino NC.
This project was supported by the Center for Documentary Studies and Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs at Duke University.
By Victoria Bouloubasis and Andrea Patiño Contreras

On the afternoon of June 23, Keny Murillo parked his car at a gas station and began to cry.

Keny had just left his father, Saul, in an emergency room. The difficult decision was a necessary one. The 58-year-old Saul could barely stand up or breathe without challenges. He knew he had COVID-19. Despite Saul being uninsured, the family decided to take him to the hospital. All Keny could think about was saving his father’s life.

The entire family spent a week battling coronavirus symptoms, from Saul down to his two-month-old grandson. The symptoms ranged among the family members: dry cough, loss of smell and taste, fatigue. But Saul got the worst of it.

While Keny sat in his car, overwhelmed and unsure if he would see his father again, his cell phone rang. He answered immediately. An ER nurse on the other end told Keny that his father was ready to be picked up from the hospital.

But Keny knew his father needed care. Saul had spent the night in feverish sweats that left his body sore and his sheets soaked. Keny changed the bed linens three times. By morning, Saul’s oxygen levels were dangerously low.

On the line with the nurse, Keny pressed for answers. He learned she had not tested his father for COVID-19. She had not listened to his lungs. She insisted Saul should go home. The nurse did not speak Spanish, and was delivering information to Keny in English.

“I can’t´breathe”

Keny heard his father’s voice in the distance, calling out to him from a hospital cot. “My son, I can’t walk. I can’t breathe.” Keny became furious.

“I told the nurse, ‘In this moment you have the opportunity to save someone’s life. And that person is my father,’” Keny recalls.

Saul ended up in the intensive care unit. He was intubated until July 1 and released from the hospital on July 9. He was in the hospital for 16 days. (The family does not want to name the hospital.)

In this video, the Honduran father and son describe how they advocated for themselves — and how other Latinos can, too.

Production: Andrea Patiño Contreras and Victoria Bouloubasis
Design and Animation: Raúl Avila .



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