After their 15-year-old daughter died less than two days after testing positive for COVID, a couple from suburban Bolingbrook is warning other families to remain vigilant in following public health guidance and advocating for everyone to get vaccinated in order to protect their children.
Dykota Morgan, a freshman at Bolingbrook High School who was a multi-sport athlete with no known pre-existing conditions, died at around 3 a.m. Tuesday at Central DuPage Hospital, her family said.
"Parents need to know that their children are not as safe as we think. It could happen to anyone. And I think that message needs to be said more. This could be anybody's child," Dykota's father Rashad Bingham said Thursday.
"People need to know. They need to protect their kids. They need to protect their children and I think that they should get vaccinated," her mom Krystal Morgan said.
"Up until this, I was on the fence about vaccinations, I'm going to be 100% honest," Morgan continued, adding that she had signed up with the village to be notified when children will be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID shortly before her daughter died.
U.S. regulators are expected to authorize emergency use of Pfizer's two-dose vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 as early as next week. Currently only authorized for people 16 and up, health experts have said data so far indicates the vaccine is safe and effective for younger age groups.
"I was not an advocate for it but the moment she got sick we actually got an email from the village to say kids 12 to 15 are going to - I signed her up to get vaccination that day," Morgan said. "I signed her up to try to help her and I feel like maybe if she had gotten vaccinated, maybe, maybe it wouldn't have exacerbated her heart so rapidly."
"Maybe the virus would not have had such an effect on her, I'm not sure. I don't know," Morgan said. "But I think that every parent just needs to protect their kids and I wish there was something that I could have did differently. I don't know if there's anything that we could have did differently. I tried everything I could do."
Morgan said Dykota first started complaining of a headache on Saturday and just wanted to sleep. Morgan said her daughter then woke up the next day with a slight cough and feeling dizzy. As she grew more tired, Morgan decided early Sunday evening to take her daughter to get tested for COVID nearby. Dykota's rapid test results came back positive, according to Morgan. A second test on Dykota's 19-year-old sister also came back positive, but the rest of the family tested negative, her mom said.
Morgan said she bought "everything that everybody ever told me they had COVID that helped them" and set up a station outside her daughters' bedrooms where she could leave tea, soup and other supplies for them to pick up while wearing N95 masks as a way for them to quarantine within the same house.
At around 2 p.m. Monday, Morgan said Dykota FaceTime called her from her bed as her condition worsened, saying she was too weak to get her soup and asking for her parents to come in the room with her. Morgan and Bingham stayed with Dykota until she fell asleep, then when they went back to check on her, found that she was sweating and could barely move.
"She's sweating, she said she felt hot and cold, so I ended up having to change her out of her clothes and that's when I knew that she was really sick because she couldn't even sit up, she couldn't put an arm through her shirt," Morgan said. "I had to literally lift her legs and pull her pants; she couldn't do anything for herself and I started getting very concerned. And then her body started getting kind of cold, so I started just massaging her, compressing her, I put a makeshift bolster under her knees and set her up so she wasn't laying straight back and she was just like, 'I think I need to go to the hospital.'"
"She was like, 'Mom, why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?' And I told her, 'You didn't do anything to deserve this, Dykota,'" Morgan said. "We literally tried to do everything to protect her, everything to protect her from this virus and I know she was very responsible, so I didn't worry about her because she was very responsible."
Morgan said she called the doctor, who told her to take Dykota to the emergency room because they thought she might be developing pneumonia.
Dykota's parents took her to Central DuPage Hospital late Monday night, where Morgan said her blood pressure was lower than it should have been when she was admitted and continued to drop.
Shortly after she was admitted, doctors said Dykota needed to stay overnight, then about an hour later, they transferred her to the ICU as she continued to decline.
"Then they said, 'We're going to have to helicopter her to Lurie Children's Hospital because we're not equipped to handle the amount of care that she needs,'" Morgan said. "Her heart rate started to become elevated and they said her kidneys started failing, and then she started really complaining about stomach pain."
Because of the weather, the hospital couldn't clear the helicopter so Dykota was then supposed to be driven to Lurie while in a medically induced coma for the trip there.
"They told us to come in the room and tell her we loved her and to tell her goodbye and we'll see her when she wakes up, because they were going to induce her, and then we went in, we said our goodbyes, my mom called, my dad called and they got to tell her that they love her and I still did not ever think that she was not going to come back from this, even at that point, but the doctors kind of started scaring me a little bit because they looked really worried," Morgan said.
Morgan said she and Bingham stepped out of Dykota's room at 2:05 a.m. Tuesday morning and their daughter coded.
"Those doctors and nurses, they worked tirelessly for the next hour, manually CPR, CPR on her chest, and they said that her heart was just too weak and she couldn't take it anymore and they had to just, they had, they did everything that they could do," Morgan said.
"They did everything they could to save my baby," Morgan said. "But this virus took her. It took her in a matter of 48 hours from the time she first started showing symptoms. And I don't know what to do."
Morgan said Dykota didn't have any pre-existing conditions, was a healthy athlete who played multiple sports - basketball, softball, cross country and track - and went to the doctor for a check-up every year. Dykota most recently went to the doctor two weeks prior to her death because she had a migraine, her mother said, wondering if it was possible she had COVID at that time but wasn't tested for it because she didn't have any other symptoms.
The DuPage County Coroner's Office said Thursday that Dykota's official cause of death was still pending investigation and that it could be "several weeks" before they know anything more. Morgan said the office told her that Dykota died of an "inflamed heart."
Morgan said Thursday that she wanted families to know: "Don't forget about the kids. Keep the mask on. Keep hand sanitizing."
Morgan said Dykota was a "beautiful soul" and a focused student who was in all honors and advanced placement courses with big plans and a 3.7 GPA - which they learned when her report card came in the mail Tuesday, just hours after Dykota died.
"She had plans for her future. She was an athlete, she was a scholar, she had scholarships already for full-ride scholarships at four different universities. She was a track star, a basketball player, a softball player, she could draw, she could paint, she was a makeup artist, people came to the house to get their eyebrows done from her and would pay her, and she was just a beautiful soul," Morgan said.
"Everybody who met her wanted a piece of her: coaches, people's parents, her teammates' parents. Everybody loved this girl, the outpouring of love that she had was just - the support that we're getting for her is just phenomenal, like I never in a million years expected that my baby would have had this impact on people's lives in just her 15 years," she added.
"Dykota was an amazing child who let her light shine on everybody that she came in contact with and the impact that she left in these 15 years is gonna go on forever," Bingham said.
"She was a superstar," Morgan added.
A GoFundMe has been established to help Dykota's family. A balloon release in her honor is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Annerino Community Center in Bolingbrook.