Lifestyle Health College Student Dies from COVID After Mom 'Encouraged, Threatened and Nagged' Him to Get Vaccinated 20-year-old Tyler Gilreath had no preexisting conditions, but after contracting COVID-19 he developed a staph infection that led to irreversible brain damage By Julie Mazziotta Julie Mazziotta Twitter Julie Mazziotta is the Sports Editor at PEOPLE, covering everything from the NFL to tennis to Simone Biles and Tom Brady. She was previously an Associate Editor for the Health vertical for six years, and prior to joining PEOPLE worked at Health Magazine. When not covering professional athletes, Julie spends her time as a (very) amateur athlete, training for marathons, long bike trips and hikes. People Editorial Guidelines Published on September 28, 2021 01:52 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Tamra Demello/Facebook A North Carolina college student who resisted getting vaccinated died of complications from COVID-19 at age 20. Tyler Gilreath, a student at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, thought that his age would protect him against the virus if he were to get sick and was concerned about side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine, his mom, Tamra Demello, said. "He rationalized that a healthy 20 year old that gets it 'won't get that sick,' " Demello wrote on Facebook. "I cajoled, encouraged, threatened, and nagged for him to get vaccinated. He was too busy and/or concerned about the 'possible long term heart issues' but finally agreed to get it at soon as he moved at school. He didn't get the chance." Bride-to-Be, 29, Who Was Fearful of Getting Vaccinated Dies of COVID: 'Misinformation Killed Her' Two days after Gilreath moved into college, he contracted COVID-19, Demello told WECT News. Despite having no preexisting conditions, he quickly got severely ill, and developed a sinus and staph infection that lasted for three weeks before moving into his brain. Gilreath developed a brain abscess that ruptured while he was in his dorm last week. He was briefly conscious after going to the hospital, but the blood flow to his brain soon stopped, and on Friday a CAT scan showed that he had irreversible brain damage. On Tuesday morning, he was taken off life support and died. "This is just such a devastating shock. It'll just leave such a hole in our heart forever that can never be filled," Demello told the outlet, crying. "If these kids could just realize not only what this could do to them, but how devastating it is to everybody around them. I'm just begging them to please go get their shots." RELATED VIDEO: Unvaccinated TikToker Who Died of COVID Spent Last Days Urging Followers to Get the Vaccine Gilreath had been a healthy, active person who loved to wake board, water ski and downhill ski, and was studying computer science at UNC-W. 1 in 500 Americans Have Now Died of COVID-19 Demello urged parents to "use whatever guilt tactic" possible to make sure that their kids get vaccinated. "I would say just get this message out and if it can even save one person who is on the fence, or if a parent can use it to say, 'look how shattered this whole family is.' This probably won't happen to you but if there's any remote possibility that it could — it's a shot," she said. Demello said that Gilreath's father, stepmother and three siblings are all distraught by his loss. She gets some comfort from the fact that Gilreath had signed up to be an organ donor when he got his driver's license, and his heart, liver, pancreas and kidneys were saved to give to people in need. "He will live on in my heart and through those recipients," she wrote on Facebook. "I know he is with God, but the hole in my life he leaves will never go away. I love you, Son. Rest in peace." As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.