Chad Dorrill was in “tremendous shape.” Tall and slender. Played basketball. Ran long distances. But the 19-year-old college student died on Monday night, apparently of neurological complications related to COVID-19.
Dorrill, a sophomore at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, had been living off campus and taking classes online when he became ill with flulike symptoms, the school’s chancellor, Sheri Everts, wrote on Tuesday in a statement to students confirming his death. “His mother encouraged him to come home, quarantine and be tested,” Everts said.
He tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 7 and quarantined for 10 days before returning to Boone, according to his uncle David Dorrill, who said he lives seven houses away from the family in Wallburg, North Carolina, near Winston-Salem. He said that after his nephew returned to college, he almost immediately began experiencing serious neurological problems.
“When he tried to get out of bed,” David Dorrill said, “his legs were not working, and my brother had to carry him to the car and take him to the emergency room. The doctor said it was a one-in-a-million case — that they’d never seen something progress the way it did. It was a COVID complication that rather than attacking his respiratory system attacked his brain.”
Although the coronavirus targets the lungs foremost, it also attacks the kidneys, liver and blood vessels, and a significant number of patients report neurological symptoms, including headaches, confusion and delirium.
Although colleges and universities have become hot spots in the pandemic, young, healthy people generally have been at lower risk for developing severe forms of COVID-19. Only a few deaths among American college students have been linked to the virus, including a football player at California University of Pennsylvania.