SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - A Simi Valley family is grieving after 15-year-old Braden Wilson, passed away from MIS-C, a rare condition in children linked to COVID-19.
Braden's aunt, Heather Brassil, describes him as a loving teenager with a "great spirit."
"He was a gentle giant. He was only 15. He would be 16 coming up in a couple of months, but he was destined for latitude. He was very compassionate, and he was very sensitive and was just a really nice young man," she said.
Braden was a sophomore student at Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley and had a lot of interests. He loved watching "The Masked Singer" and the "The Masked Dancer" and was starting to enjoy videography and editing, even making videos himself.
"He pursued a lot of different activities. He did swimming and was really passionate about artwork and videography," said Brassil.
Braden went to Simi Valley Hospital for surgery unrelated to COVID-19 on December 9. He tested negative for the virus at that time.
"Towards mid-December [December 27], he had to go back in to [Simi Valley Hospital] repair some damage. His wounds didn't necessarily heal properly so he had to go back in to correct that issue and again he tested negative [for COVID]," said Brassil.
Brassil said he was transferred from Simi Valley Hospital to UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital to fix the wound and was released on December 29.
"Then within another day or so, my sister had to call 911 and the ambulance had to come and take him and that's when the hospital tested him, and he came up positive for COVID and then it just kind of went downhill from there," said Brassil.
The hospital in Simi Valley was unable to care for a children's COVID case, according to Brassil, so Braden was taken to Children's Hospital of Los Angeles where he later succumbed to MIS-C.
MIS-C is a rare, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children linked to COVID-19 that causes severe inflammation and illness.
The CDC reported 23 deaths in the United States from MIS-C in 2020.
"We've all been told that children bounce back from COVID so it's hitting us very, very hard and it's a wake-up call for a lot of other people," said Brassil.
Brassil said Braden followed all of the safety precautions.
"He was very very scared of COVID and so he stayed away from people. He only went out to go to visit his grandma and his grandpa. He stayed six feet apart, always wore a mask, sanitized, and did everything to stay clear and to avoid COVID and it's just a horrible twist of fate that he had to succumb to what he was most fearful of," said Brassil.
Brassil said her daughter, Samantha, who is only seven months apart in age from Braden, is struggling with the loss of her cousin.
"There are moments where my daughter and I. It just kind of hits us and so it's moment by moment sometimes. My daughter was very, very close to him because they grew up together. He was her best friend and she was his and now she's lost because she doesn't know who to talk to or go to," said Brassil.
The death is especially difficult for Braden's mother, Amanda.
"He's an only child. My sister is devastated and that's an understatement and that's why I'm talking to you because she's in a state, she can't compose herself. She had to go through all of these emotions while she's trying to recover from COVID so that was taxing on her as well," said Brassil.
In Braden's 8th-grade graduation ceremony speech, he said the following:
"There will be days when you just feel happy, but the people around you might be having a bad day so when you see that, don't stand there and ignore them, help them, listen to them and be there for them. It only takes a small deed to help brighten someone else's day."
The family has created a GoFundMe to help pay for medical bills and Braden's memorial.