Florida foster dad to 75 children dies of COVID-19 after 4 cardiac arrests

Florida

DELAND, Fla. (WESH) – A Florida man who along with his wife fostered more than 70 children has lost his battle with the coronavirus.

Ernesto Vasallo of DeLand was known to be a gentle giant. He loved giving children a place to call home.

“He’s the foster dad that every child deserves,” Yahaira Diaz-Reyes said who was one of 75 kids Ernesto and Maritza Vasallo have fostered.

The couple raised children and gave stability to those that were neglected for 15 years.

“You felt safe and that’s what the children need,” Diaz-Reyes said. “I keep going back to that because I’ve lived in so many homes where I would spend a lot of time in my room.”

Johnnie Delgado Jr. said his father didn’t want to worry his family when he started showing COVID-19 symptoms.

“He was like ‘ah, I’ll be OK; I’m always OK,'” Delgado said. “It got to the point where he wasn’t strong enough to be okay anymore and kind of just caved into my mother’s continuous requests to go to the hospital.”

The 55-year-old spent five days in the hospital with the virus. He was put in a medically induced coma and went into four cardiac arrests. His family didn’t want him to keep suffering.

“We had to make a decision, so by the time I was on the phone with my mother, he had another (cardiac arrest) and it was just too much so we had to call it,” Delgado said.

Maritza Vasallo and some of the kids also caught COVID-19 but they are expected to be OK.

“Understand that this (virus) is serious; this is real,” Delgado said. “Get your information from valuable places.”

The Vasallos adopted seven children together. The family has set up an online fundraiser to help cover medical and funeral expenses and to continue providing a home for children in need.

“I’ll just say don’t let your guard down,” Diaz-Reyes said. “Continue staying safe, stay close to your loved ones, take care of them and make sure they’re OK.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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