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Family advocates for vaccine after 13-year-old dies of West Nile virus

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 23:39:32-04

ELGIN, TX — Healthy and happy, 13-year-old Cody Hopkins had everything to look forward to.

"And he had big dreams of becoming a bull rider," said Cody's grandma, Rosalee Kibby. "He was a spitfire. He was so fun to be around," said Cody's mom, Lacey Hopkins.

"Imagine how good I'm going to be driving at 14" Cody said in a home movie.

Sadly, Cody wouldn't make it to his 14th birthday.

"It started out as a rash," said Hopkins. Then it quickly escalated. "He got up in the morning and he couldn't remember how to put his shirt on," explained Kibby.

After a spinal tap, he was rushed to Dell Children's Hospital. Doctors thought Cody's condition was auto-immune related, but Cody's father knew better. The family demanded Cody be tested for the West Nile virus.

"The doctor said no, there's only a one percent chance that he has West Nile," Kibby said. Three days later, Cody's results came back positive.

"Every pore in your body, it looked like someone had taken a black ink pen. It was the West Nile coming out of his pores," explained Cody's mom. "It got to the point he couldn't even breath on his own and he was put on life support," Cody's grandma added.

Cody suffered a brain bleed, then a heart attack, then doctors told his family that young Cody was no longer showing neurological activity.

"The hardest decision this family has ever made was to let Cody go and be with God," said Kibby. "We'll never see Cody graduate, or walk down the aisle. We'll never see him hold his own child," Kibby continued, choking back tears, "and the sad thing is that it's so preventable because there are vaccines out there."

Now the Hopkins family has found their purpose in advocating for West Nile prevention through a vetted vaccine.

"The one doctor told us that he's been in front of Congress twice to get funding for it and has been rejected twice," explained Cody's grandma, "and what from I understand is that the pharmaceutical companies do not think it would be profitable enough."

Though with the right backing, the Hopkins family hopes the West Nile vaccine becomes available to all- so that no other family must suffer their same fate.

"Let me tell you this, if it happened to him, it could happen to anybody," said Cody's mom.

Cody is the youngest person to die from West Nile virus.