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Child who died from rare form of meningitis had big blue eyes that could light up a room

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NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. -  Sunday afternoon little Riley Crowell, age 3, took a swim in his family's backyard pool. Swimming, his parents said, was one of Riley's favorite things to do. The very next night however, Riley's mother Brittany said her son started having seizures. She took him to the hospital to be treated.  Riley died early Wednesday morning.

The child died from a rare form of meningitis, according to the district health director in the Chickahominy Health District, which includes New Kent, Hanover Goochland and Charles City counties.

Riley's family said they still had a lot of questions surrounding the three-year-old child's death. His parents described their son as someone who never met a stranger. His big blue eyes, they said, could light up a room.

Riley Crowell

Riley Crowell

Brittany and Andrew Huber, Riley's father,  said their son was wise beyond his years. He also had a love for trucks, trains, and elephants.

Letters Home to Daycare

Letters were sent home to families whose children attend For Kids Only Daycare in New Kent County after Riley's death.

Even though Riley attended the daycare, the health department stressed they do not yet know where the child got the infection. The letter told parents to be on the lookout for symptoms and to take preventive measures as instructed by your physician if need be. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacterial meningitis is severe, and while most people recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. The risks are higher for infants and children.

Parents whose children attend the daycare said their hearts were with Riley's family.

"I'm thinking about you," one mother said. "I'm very sorry that this happened, they'll be in my thoughts."

Helping the Family

Riley's family wanted to to thank everyone who has sent messages since their son's death. A GoFundMe page was set up for to help Rikey's family pay for his unexpected funeral.

About Bacterial Meningitis

It can spread if there is close or long contact with a sick person in the same household or daycare center, or if they had direct contact with a sick patient’s saliva or mucus, according to the CDC.

It is not as contagious as viruses that cause the common cold or flu, and can’t be spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

Meningitis infection may show up in a person by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It will often have other symptoms, such as

  • Nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia), and
  • Altered mental status (confusion).

In newborns and infants, the classic meningitis symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice. The infant may appear to be slow or inactive (lack of alertness), irritable, vomiting or feeding poorly. In young infants, doctors may look for a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on infant’s head) or abnormal reflexes, which can also be signs of meningitis. If you think your infant has any of these symptoms, call the doctor or clinic right away.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3-7 days after exposure.

Anyone with the symptoms who believes they have meningitis is urged to seek immediate help.