Family mourns unexpected death of 8 year old

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported an autopsy indicated how the child died. The information lacked attribution to the boy’s family. The coroner said autopsy results are not yet available.

A common illness unexpectedly took the life of Topeka eight year old, Stephen Wilson, his family said. 

He was a second grader at State Street Elementary School and his family remembers him as a happy little kid who loved video games and playing outdoors. 

Ashley Wilson is Stephen’s older sister. She said Stephen’s death was something the family never saw coming. She said Stephen had what looked like a cold, but he seemed to be getting better. Then he died in his sleep.

“It still hasn’t quite sunk into me yet, and I really don’t want it to,” Wilson said.  

Wilson said medical workers told her Stephen died from complications with Respiratory Syncytial Virus. It’s a common infection that has symptoms that are similar to the common cold and it’s rarely deadly, but after it took her brother’s life, Ashley, who’s a parent herself, said people can never be too cautious. 

“The silent symptoms, you really don’t know. Even if it’s just a simple cough, get them checked out. Have more testing done than normal, because you never know what’s in sicknesses these days and it could take a life,” Wilson said.  

Police said the cause of death has not been determined.

Topeka Public Schools spokeswoman Misty Kruger says the district is working to help Stephen’s classmates and teachers process his death. 

“We bring in extra mental health team members so counselors, social workers, just to help people process their feelings, and make sure if there’s someone else who might need additional support that we’re there to provide that to them,” Kruger said.  

Ashley said she’ll miss her little brother as she and her family work to heal. 

“He would always be by my side, and sissy is what he’d call me, and he’d always want to come and sleep in my room with me and play some video games,” Wilson said, “I’m going to miss his smile.” 

There is a GoFundMe account to help the family pay for Stephen’s funeral costs. You can find that here

We reached out to Dr. Randall Schumacher to find out what parents need to look out for.

“Quite a few kids get RSV because it is pretty contagious. Bronchiolitis is the number one hospitalizer of kids that we see so it’s the younger kids, it’s the kids less than 2, especially less than 6 months,” Schumacher said, “Prevention is hard but really knowing and watching your kids closely if they have bronchiolitis so, initially it starts like a cold they get more trouble breathing if they’re not feeding or drinking as well, that’s the time that they need to reach out to their doctor.” 

Dr. Schumacher said kids two years old and younger are the ones most susceptible to having a serious case of RSV similar to what Stephen had. He also said there aren’t a lot of ways to avoid catching RSV, but following the usual germ-fighting methods like washing your hands, drinking lots of fluids, and avoiding contact with people who are sick can help lower the risks.

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