By Miguel Lo Bianco
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - When Dario New, 52, fell ill with a spiking fever one night in early April, it marked the start of his battle with COVID-19. Unknown to him, his elderly father was already sick with the virus too.
His father Alberto, 83, was recovering from an infection brought on by an operation and had recently transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Buenos Aires. He was supposed to be on the mend. Instead, his father's caregivers called to say he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
New and his father embarked on parallel battles with the disease, hospitalized less than two miles apart in Buenos Aires.
A diving instructor for 30 years, New was no stranger to dangerous situations, but for the first time he felt a true brush with death as he struggled against the disease, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives in Latin America.
"I thought I was not going to see my daughter's 15th birthday," New said. "It is the first time that I felt that I could really die, and that death is there."
New recovered after 13 days. But the night he returned home from the hospital, however, his father's condition worsened.
"We could not talk to him and nobody could go see him," New said.
Locked in isolation in his family home, New realized he would have to say goodbye to his father by phone that night. When a nurse offered to arrange a call, New spoke to his dad for the last time, telling him that he may be alone in the hospital, but he was not abandoned.
"This was extremely valuable to me because this person allowed me to say goodbye to my father," New said. "I know that my father understood that he did not die alone and that he had a family behind him."
(Reporting by Miguel Lo Bianco, writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)