WEBER COUNTY (ABC4 News) – Kind, ambitious, and selfless: Words that Jamie Navarro Jr.’s parents used over and over to describe their 16-year-old son who abruptly passed away from the flu two weeks ago.
In their Roy home filled with flowers and posters from the community, Jamie Navarro Sr. and Tali Cuenca opened up Tuesday about their son’s life and the final moments they spent with him in the hospital.
As the second child of a family of six children, Cuenca said Jamie Jr. always stepped up to the plate to help her care for his siblings.
“He was always trying to help me clean and take care of the kids because I work nights. When I would pick them up from school, he would always say, ‘Don’t worry, Mom. I can make some food for the kids. Just go to sleep,'” she said.
Jamie Jr. was named after his dad, whose family said shared a lot of characteristics with him.
“I’m so proud of him. When Jamie was in junior high, he hung out with the wrong crowd. His older brother is a Marine, so we enrolled him at Utah Military Academy,” said Navarro Sr. “At first, he didn’t like it. But then he really started to enjoy it. He started playing lacrosse and volleyball, joined the drill team where he went to competitions all over the country.”
His family said Jaime Jr. aspired to be an emergency room doctor after he graduated.
“He was one of those people who loved to help others. He would help his friends or motivate them when he had trouble with their schoolwork. We had this ‘Yes, you can’ mentality in our family. Even with our neighbors, he would help them with moving the snow, garbage, gardening, everything,” said Cuenca.
She said their family’s nightmare began on January 17, when Jaime Jr. had a fever.
“I work at a pediatric clinic, so I looked at him and knew he had the flu. I took him to the clinic to get swabbed, found out he had the flu B,” she said.
His symptoms subsided for a few days where Jaime felt healthy enough to return to school after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, Navarro Sr. said his son began experiencing stomach pain later in the day. Doctors at the University of Utah clinic transported him to the hospital via ambulance after diagnosing him with pneumonia.
“He laid on my shoulder, hugged me, and said, ‘Daddy. Am I going to be alright?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Don’t worry. It’s going to be OK. You’re going to be fine.’ I wasn’t expecting he was that sick,” he said.
For the next three days, the family remained at Jaime’s bedside while he battled a bacterial infection in his lungs. Doctors feared the bacteria would spread to his bloodstream and then through his whole body.
“He had a tube down his throat so he couldn’t talk to us. I asked him, ‘Can you hear me? If you can, will you open your eyes?’ He did. But the only thing I can saw was tears in his eyes. I knew he was in a lot of pain,” said Cuenca.
On January 25th, Jaime passed away, just hours from when another student from Utah Military Academy also died from the flu.
“It’s been a nightmare. Everything happened so quick. It’s the first time I’ve gone through something like this. I’m still in shock and I don’t want to believe it. Every time I get out of my room, I still look into the living room, hoping he’s there watching TV, waiting for me,” said Navarro Sr. “I cried so much at the hospital. I prayed to God and asked, ‘Can you please take my life and give his life back to him?'”
Cuenca and Navarro Jr. said the community’s love and support has helped them get through this tough time. What also brings them comfort is knowing their son is not in pain anymore.
“He’s in a better place and I will see him soon. He’s my angel and he’s always going to be angel,” said Cuenca. “He knows how much everyone loved him. I told him that every time. ‘Keep fighting. You got this. You’re strong.'”
Jaime’s family said he did not receive a flu shot this season. They urge parents to not underestimate the symptoms and to take the flu seriously.
“Don’t wait. With a fever, make sure you always give your children their medicine on time, even if they’re sleeping. Take them to the hospital before it’s too late, even if insurance is a problem. They’ll help you out. It’s worth it if it means saving your kid’s life,” she said.