'Super Healthy' 19-Year-Old Dies from Coronavirus Complications After Returning to College

Chad Dorrill developed serious neurological problems after COVID-19 "attacked his brain," his uncle said

Chad Dorrill
Chad Dorrill. Photo: Yasmin Leonard Photography

A “super healthy” 19-year-old who contracted COVID-19 died of serious neurological complications from the disease after returning to college.

Chad Dorrill, a sophomore at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, was a long-distance runner and basketball player in “tremendous shape,” his uncle, David Dorrill, told The New York Times.

“He was healthy … Skinny. Could run six miles without any issue. He ran with us less than three weeks ago, in fact. He was healthy — until this hit,” said David.

Chad had returned to school, living off-campus and taking online classes, when he started developed flu-like symptoms. His mother persuaded him to come home, quarantine and get tested for COVID-19, the university’s chancellor, Sheri Everts, wrote in a message to students on Tuesday. Chad ended up testing positive on Sept. 7.

After 10 days in quarantine at home in Wallburg, North Carolina, Chad went back to Boone. But he soon developed severe neurological complications from the virus.

“When he tried to get out of bed his legs were not working, and my brother had to carry him to the car and take him to the emergency room,” David said. “The doctor said it was a one-in-a-million case — that they’d never seen something progress the way it did. It was a COVID complication that rather than attacking his respiratory system attacked his brain.”

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Chad’s family brought him to Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, and at 8 p.m. on Sept. 28 they removed him from life support. Dr. Colin McDonald, chair of neurology at the hospital, said the staff was “devastated” to lose Chad.

“We are doing everything we can to figure out why this happened,” McDonald told the Times.

David, who said that an autopsy will be conducted, added that it is not known how his nephew contracted COVID-19, and that Chad “told us he was always careful to wear a mask.”

According to Everts, the chancellor, “His family’s wishes are for the university to share a common call to action so our entire campus community recognizes the importance of following COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines.”

There are currently 183 active cases of COVID-19 in students at Appalachian State University, which has in-person and virtual classes, and 3 cases in employees, according to the school’s website. Since March 27, 594 students have tested positive, along with 29 employees and 41 subcontractors.

Though teenagers and children are at a lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19, Chad’s case highlights that it is possible, Everts said.

“As we approach the halfway mark to the last day of classes for the Fall semester, we are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases in students,” she said. “All of us must remain vigilant with our safety behaviors wherever we are in our community.”

There have been at least 130,000 cases of COVID-19 at more than 1,300 colleges across the country since schools reopened this fall, the Times reports, and at least 70 people have died.

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