Holden Ryker Sokalsky was born in June 2019 alongside his two sisters. Having spontaneous triplets definitely threw us for a loop, but our sweet Holden was such an easy baby. We thought of him as the perfect “middle man” for his sisters. He was the calm in chaos, the light in the dark, and the laughter in the quiet. His silly antics to make everyone happy are missed so very much. Holden loved to be outside and we had just built a fence so he could play outside safely. He also loved his preschool! He was the first to the door each morning, eager to see his teachers and play with his friends.

Our house was hit with what we thought was a stomach bug. Our one daughter was sick and we took her to the pediatrician for a quick check on. The doctor told us it was most likely a viral bug and to expect our other children to experience symptoms as well. Thus, it was not a surprise when as soon as we got home from the pediatrician, Holden also started vomiting. He vomited for a few hours on-and-off and was seemingly better by bedtime. He began to drink more fluids and appeared to be resting on the couch. We put all 3 to bed, hoping they would rest for a little bit before any nighttime sickness struck. Holden slept all night. He did not vomit again and never called out. We checked on him throughout the night, especially since we were in and out with his other sister before deciding around 2AM to keep her out of the room so we did not keep disturbing the other two.

Morning came and Dad brought Holden’s sister downstairs first, then went back upstairs to get Holden. We immediately noticed something was wrong with Holden. His breathing was labored and his color was gone. We set him on the couch while we figured out what to do and asked him if he wanted to watch Blippi, his favorite, to which he replied, “Ok, Blippi.” At that moment, he slumped over onto Mom’s shoulder and went into cardiac arrest. We immediately started CPR and called 911. Police, paramedics, and ER doctors worked on Holden for over an hour before efforts were ceased.

We could not believe it. How could our sweet, precious son be gone? Less than 24 hours ago he was making leprechauns at preschool. Less than 15 hours ago he was vomiting, which only lasted a few hours. That was it- no fever, no lethargy, nothing else. How is this happening? We sobbed endlessly as we held his body, kissed his cheeks, and told him how much we loved him. How perfect he was. We promised to bring him back home to laughter, warmth, and love. Life as we knew it was forever changed and we would always be left with a gaping hole.

We kept asking the ER doctors how this was happening. We explained that we all had the same virus, even Mom was sick overnight. How did this happen to just him? The doctor initially thought it was undiagnosed diabetes. We were immediately retracing our steps, trying to find out where we went wrong.

The coroner called the next day to ask if we knew that he recently had COVID-19 (we did not) and shared that he was severely dehydrated. This also did not make sense as he was sick only a handful of times and was given lots of fluid in between. A few weeks pass and the coroner calls again. She determined his cause of death to be myocarditis and complications of severe dehydration due to hemorrhagic gastritis. Essentially, his heart began to shut down while he was internally bleeding and losing fluids. The coroner also said he tested positive for the flu virus and it was thought that COVID-19 played a role in how severe this virus affected him.

Our hearts are still completely shattered. We have been able to pick up enough pieces to push forward and live for our daughters as well as Holden. Our sweet boy sends us plenty of signs that he is all around us. We have recently established a nonprofit in his honor, Holden’s Light, which will provide full and partial scholarships for local preschool-aged children. Thank you for our 2 years 8 months and 7 days together, Holden. We would live in those years forever if we could. I just love you so.

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