ELGIN, Texas (KXAN) — The family of a 13-year-old Bastrop County boy worries his death was caused by West Nile virus that resulted in a fatal neurological disease. Cody Hopkins’ mother says her son tested positive for the virus in early October and within a few days, his condition worsened.
In a Facebook message to KXAN News, Cody’s mom, Lacey Hopkins, said her once-athletic son lost “all motor function and ability to talk.” Doctors told the family the child had West Nile encephalitis, which severely attacked his brain and caused severe hemorrhaging on the brain.
For the past week, Cody was receiving treatment at Dell Children’s Medical Center. The family’s pastor says the teenager was still aware of people on Friday, but his condition deteriorated over the weekend and he passed away Sunday, Oct. 9.
“You never thought that something as simple as a mosquito bite would take your son’s life.”
“The doctors. You could see the frustration on their faces and the sadness in their hearts that they couldn’t do more for him,” said Cody’s father Greg Lashmet. “He’s been beat up and banged up in rodeos and sports, and crashes himself all the time. And you never thought that something as simple as a mosquito bite would take your son’s life. We just want people out there to be aware that it’s still very real and it’s still very dangerous and obviously, it’s very deadly.”
Cody’s father and mother say they’re speaking out to create awareness on the issue. While West Nile isn’t new, they say many forget how dangerous and deadly it is. They want parents to hear this story and take the extra time to protect their children from mosquito bites.
“This was his calling, Cody is not dead. We are Cody strong and his spirit is still very much and we are going to raise awareness just like I think that that was his calling,” Cody’s mother Lacey said. “He would do anything in this world to save another kid and them taking his spinal fluid and doing science on it, we hope that’s one step closer to finding a vaccination for people because you never would think it would be one little bug to take out my sons life.”
Students and staff in the Elgin and Mcdade communities wore bright pink shirts to a prayer service on Tuesday–Cody’s favorite color.
“It was overwhelming to see the love the people have for Cody and to know how many lives that Cody’s touched,” said Cody’s grandma, Rosalee Hopkins.
A spokesperson with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) confirms the agency is investigating a reported West Nile case in a Bastrop County resident but they couldn’t elaborate on the actual case.
For the family’s pastor, Greg Long, seeing Cody in the hospital was devastating. “We knew there were challenges but he was still acknowledging folks that were around him. And one thing about Cody is he’s a kid of great determination, so he’s a fighter and you could tell he was trying to respond as much as he could,” said Long, of Lost Pines Cowboy Church.
Another family friend, Tiny Varble, said the news has been difficult for everyone in the community. “I can’t always explain everything or understand everything, but I can understand why God took Cody, because he wanted a fine young man to sit at his throne and keep him company. And I think he picked the finest,” said Varble.
About two months before Cody got sick, Patrick Maass helped the teenager bond with a new horse that was going to be his to ride. She was a gray mare named Dally.
“We did everything real slow, but you could just see him kind of building confidence as we worked,” said Maass. “Cody was nothing but ‘yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am’ just wide-eyed and a huge big smile.”
“He was very loved by his peers and teachers,” McDade ISD Superintendent Barbara Marchbanks said. “One of our teachers, Rosalee Hopkins, was his grandmother. It has affected the student body and staff as well. Our hearts are deeply troubled. We’re here to support the family as best we can.“
There will be a memorial bull ride and silent auction at the Circleville Gneral Store in Taylor, Texas at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday October, 16th. Silent auction donations can be dropped off at the Circleville store.
The family has also set up an account at Frontier bank in Elgin and Bastrop under the account “Benefits for Cody”.
Family and friends gathered Sunday night for a candlelight vigil to remember Cody:
West Nile Virus
Less than 1 percent of people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.
The most recent report from DSHS indicates 222 people have been infected with West Nile this year and four have died. Of the 222 cases, 116 of those individuals suffered from neurologic illness.
Specifically, in Bastrop County, where Cody lived, the report dated Oct. 4, only showed one positive case of West Nile in the whole county and it was a sample from an equine. DSHS says a new report will be released later this week.