When 9-year-old J.J. went to bed on Jan. 24 he said his throat hurt so his dad, Jason Boatman, gave him cough medicine. When J.J. woke the next day, he couldn’t breathe. A day after J.J. tested positive for COVID-19, the boy passed away and his family is reeling.
“There wasn’t a single sign of anything. What happened?” Boatman, 38, of Vernon, Texas, told TODAY. “He was happy, loving, full of life. The next day he’s gone.”
The Boatmans are sharing his story to warn others that COVID-19 can be serious for children, too.
“Not once in my wildest dreams did I ever think this could happen — especially to a 9-year-old,” Boatman said. “COVID can happen to anyone. It really can.”
From healthy to struggling to breathe
The last evening J.J. was at home, Boatman remembers the two going through their familiar father-son bedtime routine. J.J. played in the bath, making a bubble beard, and joked with his dad about whether he wanted to be a vampire. After giving J.J. cough medicine for his sore throat, father and son lain in bed watching cartoons until J.J. fell asleep. When J.J. woke the next morning, he was yelping in pain.
“He just started screaming, ‘I can’t breathe! I can’t breath! Help,’” Boatman recalled. “He sat on the chair and just kind of slumps over and falls on the floor. He starts bleeding from his mouth and nose.”
J.J.’s mom, Priscilla, called 911 and an ambulance took him to a local hospital. Doctors gave him two COVID-19 tests. The rapid test was negative, but the other test was positive. They also performed X-rays and saw that fluid filled J.J.’s lungs. At one point, doctors struggled to revive J.J.
“He did pass for 32 minutes and they did CPR on him for 32 minutes, which that was terrible on its own because that ended up giving him brain damage,” Boatman said.
Doctors transferred him to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Boatman said he and his wife had to drive to meet their son, an agonizing hourslong trip.
“That is when they had told us that his heart and lungs were just so bad it would be some miracle if he was to survive,” Boatman said. “But it wouldn’t matter anyways because when they had to do that CPR on him that had made him brain dead.”
Prior to the hospital, the family didn’t even know J.J. had COVID-19. The sore throat the night before was his only symptom. Boatman and one of his daughters had the virus in November, but Priscilla, J.J. and another daughter never caught it. They were all tested after J.J. went to the hospital and no one else had it. Every time they went out, Boatman said the entire family, including J.J., wore masks.
“I don’t know where he had gotten it from,” Boatman said. “He’s always with us. None of us have it and it’s been out of my system and his sister’s system for a while.”
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