Joliet family shares hope after father, son fight through COVID-19

JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) -- A Joliet family is sharing their story of survival after several members overcame COVID-19.

Seven-year-old Maverick Del Angel says he had a few rough weeks fighting off the coronavirus. Now his family, including his dad who also caught the virus, is eager to move forward as he celebrates his eighth birthday on Saturday.

"I don't think any of us should live in fear, but I think we should be educated. Obviously kids can get it," said Danielle Del Angel, Maverick's mother. "Luckily, Maverick was fine, but there is always that unknown factor too."

Although it's been an emotional journey, the Del Angel family wants to share their experience to provide hope to others facing the same situation.

"Is everyone going to die? No! Of course not," said Danielle, a respiratory therapist. "But do you know what's going to happen? No, you have no idea."

Danielle and her husband, Jimi, are grateful to watch their two sons jump on the trampoline and play in the backyard these days.

Just days ago, the situation in their family was tenuous as COVID-19 reached their home.

"It was just a really stressful time for our family from the very start of this pandemic," said Jimi.

From the start of the pandemic, Danielle has been working hard to help other families suffering from coronavirus. She is a respiratory therapist, who was tasked with intubating the sickest COVID-19 patients.

The mother of two said she signed a nine-week contract, traveling to intensive care units for her assignment. She worked four, 12-hour shifts, while also keeping her two-day shift at a nursing home. In other words, she worked six days a week at the height of the virus in Illinois.

"Thankfully, I never brought it home during all that time. So we never had to deal with that, which I was really worried about and extra careful," Danielle said. "I made sure not to hug them or kiss them, which was really hard for those few months."

But at the beginning of August, Jimi, who is a healthy runner and heavy machinery operator, said he stopped for wings at a restaurant and later tested positive.

"I couldn't catch my breath," he said. "I was struggling just to take a single breath."

Jimi quarantined in the basement, but then there was news about Maverick.

"At first, I could still taste and everything was fine until my mom actually told me I was actually positive," Maverick said, "and then everything felt much different."

Maverick said his heartbeat was faster, and it hurt to breathe. He also got a rash on his nose.

At the same time, his dad was getting worse too. The two, both testing positive, hugged just before Jimi left for the hospital.

"It was hard," Maverick said, tears welling in the boy's eyes. "I thought he wasn't going to make it out."

Jimi spent six days in the hospital before returning home and is now fighting pneumonia. Maverick's condition, however, is improving.

"The rash went away, but my breathing troubles did not go away," Maverick said.

The big brother is back playing with his 6-year-old brother Cain, and he has this advice about COVID-19: "You don't want to have it!"

While they continue to fight through the virus, the Del Angels say they also want to spread hope as well. They say they are grateful to their employers because both agreed to pay them while their family battled the virus, adding that kindness and compassion these days can go a long way.

"All of us need to put our faith in God," Danielle said, "and just love each other and give each grace and be kind to one another."
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