Watch CBS News

'His Life Hadn't Even Started': Texas 9-Year-Old J.J. Boatman Passes Away From COVID-19 Complications

*This story has been updated with comments from J.J. Boatman's father, Jason.*

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A Texas family is grieving the unexpected loss of their 9-year-old son who they say died of complications related to COVID-19.

J.J. Boatman of Vernon, passed away at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

"He was a loving, caring little boy," said his uncle, Gabriel Ayala. "Like, every time he would see you or any family member, he'd run up and hug you."

J.J. Boatman
J.J. Boatman (credit: Gabriel Ayala)

Just a few weeks ago, J.J. celebrated his 9th birthday with tacos and cake.

"We never knew this was going to be his last birthday," Ayala said.

The little boy had asthma, but Ayala said it didn't stop him from being active and playing with his cousins or older sisters.

J.J. Boatman
J.J. Boatman (credit: Gabriel Ayala)

"He was just running around and playing earlier that day, and by the nighttime he was yelling and crying to his mom that he couldn't breathe," said Ayala. "His mom went over, and his face was blue already and his lips were blue."

Ayala says J.J. was taken on a medical helicopter from Vernon, where his family lives, to Cook Children's Medical Center.

By the time he arrived, his lungs were filled with fluid.

Ayala said the doctors told J.J.'s mom he died from complications related to COVID-19.

"She didn't know that she was going to come home empty-handed without her son," he said. "That was her baby boy. That was her only son."

Ayala says it shows anyone can get the virus, and he hopes people continue to take the threat seriously as his family grieves for the little boy whose life was cut short.

"We're going to miss his whole life," Ayala said. "He's going to miss his whole life. His life hadn't even started."

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, CBS 11 spoke with J.J.'s father, Jason Boatman.

"You don't know how to live life anymore because everything's just literally changed. Everything has literally just changed when your baby boy is not ever coming back."

Boatman said his life turned upside down in a span of 24 hours.

"Sunday night he was as happy, hyper, loving going self," J.J.'s dad said. "I woke up that next morning to go to work I could hear him wheezing a little bit, but he's had croup before so I thought it was croup."

Boatman said in addition to asthma, his son had autism and ADHD, but he said was otherwise active and healthy.

Not long after getting to work, his wife told him their son woke up screaming, saying he couldn't breathe.  She rushed him to the ER.

"They had done X-rays, and they say your lungs are supposed to be black when you do X-rays, but his were completely white," he said.

J.J. was flown from Vernon to Cook Children's in Fort Worth.

That's where the family found out he was positive for COVID-19.

The next morning the little boy's heart gave out.

"The hardest part was coming home and putting the key in the door and you open the front door, you're reminded of him everywhere," said his father. "Try to really appreciate what you have, I mean I know everybody does, but really take it to heart because it can be taken away within seven to eight hours like mine was."

The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for J.J.'s funeral.

Brooke Katz contributed to this report.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.