A 9-year-old boy from California died just days after falling ill to a virus that is typically associated with the common cold — and the death has left the boy’s family with unsettled questions about how this happened to an otherwise healthy child.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Tristan Ang began feeling unwell last month, but because his symptoms were so mild, his family believed he had caught a summer bug. But days later, Tristan began to complain of bad headaches, and he was becoming more confused and forgetful. Six days later on June 28, Tristan died in an ICU near his home in Milpitas, California.
“I don’t know why this happened to him. It was just this freak accident,” Mark Ang, Tristan’s father, told the newspaper. “It could be that God really wanted him up there.”
Before his death, doctors discovered Tristan — who had been healthy and active before becoming sick —had contracted adenovirus, which is a group of common viruses that causes a variety of illnesses, such as cold symptoms, sore throat and pink eye, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because there are so many strains associated with adenovirus, doctors were unsure which one Tristan had been exposed to, the Chronicle reported.
Adenovirus is extremely common and typically doesn’t lead to death. Most children will become infected with at least one of the strains early on in life, and their bodies will build immunity to that strain. But when someone has a weakened immune system, this some strains can cause pneumonia or infections of the brain or spinal cord. But even deaths in these scenarios are rare, according to the newspaper.
In November 2018, at least 11 children with compromised immune systems died from adenovirus infection at a New Jersey rehabilitation center.
“He was a very healthy, active, vibrant young boy before he was struck by this unknown virus,” a GoFundMe set up for the family reads. “He fought so hard, but despite all measures and attempts by doctors, he could not win this battle.”
“Tristan was a kind-hearted, sweet, and a good son,” the description on the donation page, which has raised more than $15,000 in two weeks, continues. “He was very patient and very helpful, especially with the unfortunate. He was athletic, loved basketball, and had his black belt in taekwondo, where he was on the competition team and was about to compete in the US nationals. Tristan was full of life, he loved his siblings and took very good care of them.”
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While the family does not know why the virus proved to be fatal for Tristan, his father hopes his death serves as a reminder for other parents to cherish the time they have with their children.
“He would just hug you out of nowhere, kiss you, tell you he loved you,” Ang told the Chronicle. “He was such a good-hearted kid. I know he would have helped a ton of people.
“I hope other people can draw something from what’s happened to us, even if it’s just, love your kids,” he added. “Hold them close, because you can lose them so fast.”
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