FRANKLIN COUNTY, Mo. — Numb.
That's the word Stephanie Franek used to describe how she feels just two days after losing her son to COVID-19.
Franek said her son tested positive for COVID-19 after being admitted to the hospital on Thursday because he was showing severe symptoms.
Peyton passed away on Saturday, becoming the first child in Missouri to die from the virus.
"He was kind," Franek said. "He was funny. He was a jokester...he never met a stranger."
Franek said her son didn't have any underlying health conditions.
"Nothing that I don't have," Franek said. "There's nothing that would give any explanation for it...I think the physicians at the hospital were baffled at how it affected him."
While guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states children and teens can contract and spread the virus, it calls death in children "rare."
Dr. Jason Newland, an infectious disease expert and professor of pediatrics at Washington University, said children make up less than 1% of COVID-related deaths in the country.
"We have barely over 100 nationwide," Dr. Newland said.
Of those cases, Dr. Newland said about 70% to 80% involved an underlying condition.
"It just shows that these viruses can impact normal, healthy, young people, and we don't know who it's going to be so we need to do what we can and the things necessary to protect everybody," Dr. Newland said.
Dr. Newland said the overall rise in cases and hospitalizations in the St. Louis region should serve as a wake up call about how COVID-19 is impacting the community. He said, while cases like Peyton's are not the norm, it's a "heartbreaking" example of what can happen when case numbers continue to rise.
"It's rare, but it can happen," Dr. Newland said. "It can happen to those who've had no underlying conditions."
Franek said she is grateful for the outpouring of love and and support she and her family has received from the community. On Monday, she tearfully pleaded for people to wear masks and wash their hands.
"COVID is real," Franek said.
You can support Peyton's family and help with funeral costs by donating to their GoFundMe page.