A LEGACY OF LIGHT— Above, Braden and his mom, Amanda Wilson, taken on his first day at Santa Susana High School. Left, Braden and his cousin Baylee Larcom in December 2015. Clarissa Larcom, Baylee’s mom and Braden’s aunt, said the two had an extremely close bond and they often called Baylee his “sister-cousin.”
Though barely in his teens, Simi Valley’s Braden Wilson understood that the human experience was filled with both light and darkness.
In a speech to his eighth-grade class two years ago, he said there would be days when “everything is going your way . . . when you just feel happy.” But he also knew to expect days filled with sadness, days when you feel like “you are going to explode.”
Braden’s family and friends are doing their best to remember the happy times as they come to terms with his death at the age of 15 due to complications from COVID-19. The sophomore at Santa Susana High School contracted the virus after undergoing unrelated surgery last month. His condition began to spiral after he developed a rare inflammatory syndrome that’s linked to COVID, and he died Jan. 5.
He leaves behind a legacy of light. Those who knew him say his comedic charm, witty sense of humor and joyful spirit brightened their lives. He loved art, computers and gaming, but he valued family most of all.
Photos courtesy of the Wilson family
“Braden held our family together. He is my only child and I can’t have any more children,” Amanda Wilson, the boy’s mother, told the Simi Valley Acorn. “He was my miracle . . . and a special light in the darkest of times. . . . He will always be so special.”
According to Clarissa Larcom, the teen’s aunt, Braden went into the hospital Dec. 10 for minor surgery after receiving a negative COVID-19 test. His recovery was progressing smoothly, but on Dec. 27 he was taken to Adventist Health Simi Valley’s emergency room because of heavy bleeding from the surgical wound.
Larcom said her nephew was transferred to UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital on Dec. 28 and once again tested negative for coronavirus. He was released from UCLA on Dec. 29, but two days later he returned to Simi’s emergency room because of COVID-like symptoms and tested positive. Despite severe COVID symptoms, Larcom said Braden was and told to recover at home.
BRAVE AND SWEET—Braden in a Halloween costume that he made with his mom in 2016. Courtesy of the Wilson family
On Jan. 2, Braden was having trouble breathing and was once again taken by ambulance to the local emergency room, where he went into cardiac arrest. Hospital staffers had to administer CPR to resuscitate him. Larcom said Braden was then transferred to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles because the Simi hospital was overrun by COVID cases.
Braden died three days later after experiencing multiple complications due to COVID. Larcom said he had developed MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a condition in which different body parts become inflamed and shut down.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Jan. 8 there have been 1,659 cases of MIS-C cases diagnosed in the United States and 26 deaths.
Though Braden is gone, Larcom said his spirit will continue to loom large.
“Braden was and will always be the glue that keeps our family together and coming back together for family dinners and game nights,” she said. “He really loved spending time with everyone and laughing and having fun.”
SSHS Principal Matthew Guzzo said he learned of Braden’s passing Jan. 5.
“I was heartbroken and could not stop thinking about his mom and what she must be going through,” Guzzo said.
“Braden is a special young man. Everyone who knew him was better for knowing him. The loss of a student impacts everyone in the community.”
To help students and staff grieve, the district had a crisis team of counselors, nurses, psychologists and administrators available.
“Our teachers are also hypersensitive to the students’ needs during this time,” Guzzo said. “The leadership team will meet this week to explore ideas of how to honor Braden.”
When Braden wasn’t focused on his studies, he poured time into his hobbies, which included art, computers, video editing and swimming.
Wilson said her son started drawing and painting when he was young. Between the ages of 6 and 9, he won several ribbons at the Ventura County Fair for his oil paintings.
His sense of humor even landed him on “Seriously Funny Kids” in 2011 when he was a kindergartner. Heidi Klum hosted the Lifetime series and she would interact with kids to bring out their funny side.
“(Braden) was very witty, was very good at a quick comeback or one-liner,” his mom said. “I looked forward to how his humor could lighten a mood and his giggle was contagious.”
Larcom said Braden enjoyed playing video games and watching and making videos. Over the past few years he had gotten into horror movies and had made a list of favorites to watch with his mother.
Unfortunately, they only made it through three before his passing, Larcom said.
Larcom said her nephew was a “pure-spirited young man” who pushed past his fears and never gave up on anyone.
His kind-hearted nature came through in that eighth-grade speech. If you see someone having a bad day, he told his peers, “help them, listen to them and be there for them.”
Larcom was impressed by those words.
“He was truly brave and sweet and smarter than his years,” she said.
“He did things his own way and didn’t follow the norm,” she continued. “He was and forever will be our big Braden boy. We love you Braden and please continue to watch over us, especially your mother, just like you always did here on Earth every day and as she has done for you.”
Larcom and her sister, Heather Brassil, created a GoFundMe to help cover medical bills and costs for a memorial service. As of Thursday afternoon, the site had garnered more than $16,700.
Donations can be made at gofundme.com/f/Braden-Wilson memorial-services.