Family uses son’s death from COVID to urge vaccination, action

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 10:00 PM EDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Tyler Blaylock was a college baseball player and video game enthusiast who loved his family.

“He was just the most amazing kid,” his mom Kayla Blaylock told WIBW. “Always happy.”

His dad Johnny Blaylock often helped coach Tyler’s team, and saw his kindness.

“If a player went down on the field, he’d be the first to help him up,” he said. “(He was) just a very kind soul.”

Tyler also had a special bond with his younger sister Sydeny, who’s 16.

“He would do anything for me,” she said.

Tyler died from COVID on Sept. 16.

“It went so fast, it was like a tornado,” Kayla Blaylock said.

The fight started more than a month earlier, when Kayla and Johnny Blaylock both tested positive for COVID.

“When you leave the doctor, you don’t get medicine when you test positive for COVID - and I get it - there is no medicine, I understand that,” Kayla Blaylock said.

Johnny Blaylock’s symptoms remained mild, but Kayla developed severe breathing trouble, and was admitted to the hospital. Tyler tested positive on Aug. 15. Five days later, Johnny called Kayla to tell her he was rushing home - Tyler was in trouble.

“I immediately hang up and I call Tyler and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh. What’s going on?’ and he says, ‘Mom, I’m laying on the bathroom floor and I cannot catch my breath,’” Kayla Blaylock said.

For the next 30 days, Tyler’s condition would go up and down. He spent stretches in isolation, spiking his anxiety.

“They arranged a FaceTime, and that was the hardest thing a mother will have to go through is to see how scared your child is,” Kayla Blaylock said.

After repeated requests, the Blaylocks were allowed at Tyler’s bedside. By that time, Tyler’s organs were shutting down.

“Three days in a row, our doctor came in and said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know what to do,’” Johnny Blaylock recalled.

“We know that they tried everything they thought they knew to do,” Kayla Blaylock said.

The family would like to see researchers put more attention on early treatment, and for regulators to allow health care providers more flexibility to try different interventions, for wider patient populations.

“Where’s the fine line? Do you worry about his immune system, or do you worry about trying to get him better and face the consequences afterward?” Johnny Blaylock aid. “At the end of the day, he still passed away - that’s the battle.”

The other battle is one they themselves resisted: neither they, nor Tyler, were vaccinated against COVID.

“All the whys and the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. There’s guilt. There’s guilt from everybody. You feel like you did not protect your child,” Kayla Blaylock said.

The Blaylocks said they felt they were making the best decisions possible with the information available at the time. They did not discourage Tyler from getting the vaccine, but they did not push him either.

“You just don’t think your 20-year-old strong son would need it until more data comes out,” Johnny Blaylock said.

They say now that they’ve seen the damage the delta variant can do, they’re working to change minds. It started with their own.

“For my son and for my family, I got vaccinated,” Johnny Blaylock said. “It’s your choice. I believe in freedom of choice, but you don’t want to go through the hell my son went through.”

Sydney is spreading the message among her high school peers, admitting she had fears about vaccinated, but has moved past them.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went with losing my brother - literally sitting by him in the hospital and watching him take his last breath,” she said. “You never know - and you can take the chance on getting the vaccine, and actually living and protecting yourself.”

The Blaylocks have heard from about 400 people - family, Tyler’s high school and college friends, strangers - who have all been pushed to get vaccinated because of Tyler’s fight. They use the hashtag #shotfor7 - for Tyler’s baseball number.

“Every day when it pops up in my feed, it breaks my heart, but it makes me happy because I feel like something good is coming from it,” Kayla said.

It’s a sign Tyler is still watching over them, still caring for others.

“It can happen to you,” Kayla Blaylock said. “You can be 20 and healthy and it still can happen.”

“This delta virus is going after our youth and (vaccination) is, in my opinion, the best way to protect them,” Johnny Blaylock said. “I don’t live scared. I never have lived scared. I’m scared to death now. I lost my son, almost lost my wife - and I don’t want to lose nobody else - and I don’t want nobody else to.”

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