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Heart problems likely to blame in death of Isenberg third-grader

Jonie Hickson has so many videos of her 11-year-old son, Jerel Hill, skateboarding. He’d only been skating for three years, but he learned a few tricks and even built skateboarding ramps with his friends outside the family’s home. He could often be found outside mowing the grass, playing baseball or riding his motorized dirt bike. His mother would never have thought Saturday would be her last time with him.
The Isenberg Elementary School third-grader died unexpectedly Saturday after he went to the hospital with flu-like symptoms.
Hickson said doctors aren’t 100 percent sure, but they believe he could’ve suffered from myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart. The family has requested and doctors have approved an autopsy. In children, myocarditis can be triggered by a viral infection.
Jerel had no symptoms other than those that appeared to be a stomach virus, which Hickson was treating him for, she said.
On Jan. 6, Jerel was sick, but after a few days was well enough to return to school.
Then, last Friday he complained of a headache. So Hickson gave him what he referred to as his “bubble gum pill.”
The next day, Jerel didn’t have an appetite, but was able to drink liquids. He took a nap and awoke two hours later, she said.
He became sick to his stomach and was weak. He also began rambling and his words were not making sense, Hickson said.
Around 5 p.m., she took him to the emergency room at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.
Upon arrival, he collapsed.
Hickson said she screamed for someone to help her by getting a wheelchair. Jerel was conscious, but still weak and rambling, she said.
When Jerel was wheeled into a room, the staff barely had time to obtain a swab to check to see if he had the flu before he stopped breathing, she said.
Hickson ran into the hallway and yelled for help. The hospital personnel who had just left his room and a doctor ran back in. They tried to revive Jerel, but were unsuccessful.
When asked to describe her son, Hickson immediately said he was very active and athletic. He played baseball, like his father, Anthony Hill. He also loved to help her father, Bishop Richard Chambers, mow the yard.
“He was always working on his bike, trying to paint it,” Hickson said.
In addition to a regular bicycle, Jerel also rode a motorized bike in the neighborhood.
Hickson’s home was where all of Jerel’s friends would go to skateboard or hang out.
“They used to come over all the time. He was loved,” she said.
Hickson said Jerel never met a stranger. He was a friendly, compassionate child.
“He was a very loving kid, with a very big heart. He loved everybody he came in contact with. He was so easy going and so easy to get along with,” Hickson said.
He not only loved sports, he loved school. He would become upset if he missed a day. Jerel often got up in the mornings before Hickson because he was just so excited to go to school and see his friends.
Jerel enjoyed reading his favorite book series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” by Jeff Kinney.
Reading was the one subject Hickson didn’t have to fight with him to do.
Jerel was the only boy and the baby, she said.
He was spoiled by everyone, she said with a slight laugh.
“I will miss his smile. It was so big. It would brighten the room,” she said.
She called Jerel her shadow because he would follow her everywhere.
“He was such a mama’s boy,” Hickson said.
Jerel taught himself to play the drums after watching Hickson’s sister, Sandi Chambers, and the guitar after watching her father play.
“I will always love him and he will always be my special boy,” Sandi said.
Jerel’s older sister, Bri, 18, whom he affectionately called “Bri-Bri,” said she will miss his hugs and how he made her smile.
His other sister, Shakyra, 16, said she will love and miss him. “You will always be in our hearts,” she said.
Robert Williams, Jerel’s stepfather said he would forever love the 11-year-old until “we meet again.”
Funeral services will be held 3 p.m. Sunday at New Smith Chapel, 8025 Statesville Blvd., Salisbury. Visitation will be held at 2 p.m. at the church. Burial will follow at Oakdale Cemetery.

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