Parents of ASU student who died from COVID-19 complications open up about loss

Parents of App State student who died from COVID-19 complications open up to ‘GMA’

BOONE, N.C. — The parents of an Appalachian State University student, who was described as a talented high school basketball player, have spoken out after their son died from complications with COVID-19.

Chad Dorrill, a sophomore exercise science major, died Monday night at Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem. He was 19 years old.

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Dorrill’s family told the New York Times he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sept. 7, isolated at home near Winston-Salem for 10 days. Doctors then cleared him to return to Boone. His family said that’s when he developed neurological issues almost immediately.

Dorrill’s uncle told the Times, “When Chad tried to get out of bed, 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 1 million case -- that they had never seen something progress the way it did.”

‘He was an angel’: App State sophomore dies from COVID-19 complications

Dorill’s parents spoke exclusively to Good Morning America about their son.

“He’d just declared his major, he was going into exercise -- he wanted to be a physical therapist, so he was working really hard in school and loved it there,” said his mother, Susan Dorrill.

Chad Dorrill’s parents said that shortly after their son returned to Boone after quarantining in their home near Winston-Salem, he began feeling very bad. They then drove to Boone and were extremely concerned about how their son was acting.

“He knew where he was but he wasn’t sure where he was -- short-term memory was gone,” Susan Dorrill said.

She said they thought he may have been having a panic attack because he looked so normal. The next morning, they said Chad called out to them from his bed.

“He could not move anything, he couldn’t roll over,” Susan Dorrill said.

They immediately took him to the hospital.

“We had a wheelchair brought to the car and then they stopped us ... for like 10 hours,” said Robert Dorrill, Chad’s father.

The Dorrills said Chad developed an extremely rare neurological disorder from the virus. They made the difficult decision to remove him from life support on Monday night.

They decided to talk about their son’s death to get the message to others that the virus needs to be taken seriously, no matter your age or because you believe you’re healthy enough to fight it.

“He made such a significant difference in other people’s lives ... beyond our wildest dreams -- that’s the message we want to get out is this thing can turn very tragic very fast.”

The Dorrills also said they want parents to make sure their children self-isolate and wear masks as soon as they start to show symptoms. The family said doctors are performing an autopsy on Chad to learn more about why the virus progressed so quickly.

Chad Dorrill
Chad Dorrill (Provided by family)

‘He was an angel’

In a statement from App State, officials said Dorrill lived off-campus in Boone and that all of his classes were online.

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Statement issued by Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts:

"Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, Parents, and Families,

"It is with the deepest sadness that I share with you that one of our students, Chad Dorrill, has died.

"The hearts of the entire Appalachian Community are with Chad’s family and loved ones during this profoundly difficult and painful time. Tributes shared by friends and loved ones show the positive impact Chad had on the communities he loved and called home, which included App State and Boone.

"Chad’s family has shared he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month and suffered from later complications. Chad lived off-campus in Boone and all of his classes were online. When he began feeling unwell earlier this month, his mother encouraged him to come home, quarantine, and be tested for COVID-19.

“After testing positive for COVID-19 in his home county, he followed isolation procedures and was cleared by his doctor to return to Boone. It was after his return to Boone that he had additional complications, was picked up by his family and hospitalized. His family’s wishes are for the university to share a common call to action so our entire campus community recognizes the importance of following COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines.”

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Reese Yaudes spoke with Channel 9 on Wednesday. She said she still can’t believe her friend is dead. The two had gone to high school together. She was a cheerleader, he played on the high school basketball team.

“Chad was the most beautiful person,” Yaudes said. “He was an angel, literally, on earth and when he walked into a room you might not even know him but you want to smile as well because he was always so happy and positive. I can already tell that people are hurting here, with over 20,000 students that attend, and it is really sad to see.”

On the campus of App State, many of the students were still in disbelief after hearing the news.

“It definitely resonates with me,” said Liam Dunman. “You don’t hear about people our age dying from it at all, so it definitely got a little bit more real for me.”

“I just heard of him from his passing, but it’s definitely pretty upsetting to know that it can happen to people our age,” said fellow student, Elise Eldridge.

As of Tuesday, Appalachian State University had 159 active cases of COVID-19 on a campus of nearly 20,000 students.

The university has taken precautions, including requiring facial coverings, adding hand sanitizing stations across campus and forcing social distancing in all of the lecture halls and classrooms.

“This is an incredibly tragic situation,” said ASU spokesperson Megan Hayes. “And his family has been very clear that we can honor him by practicing safe behavior and that’s what we’re focusing on right now.”

The university is trying to set up a virtual memorial where students can leave messages to be shared with Dorrill’s family.

Channel 9 saw pop-up testing sites on campus and students were wearing face coverings. But the death has hit students -- who thought their age was an advantage -- hard.

“Everyone says it’s the older people it effects the most,” said Briar Taylor. “But he was healthy, and seeing it happen to him makes me feel a little more worried about everything.”

“It’s just kind of crazy, and we need to take it more seriously, and it kind of puts it in perspective,” said another student, Andrew Byerly.

Dorrill graduated in 2019 from Ledford High School in Davidson County.

“Chad Dorrill was a loved and well-respected member of the Ledford community and the Class of 2019,” a spokesperson for Davidson County Schools said. “During his years at Ledford High School, he was an All-Conference basketball player who was both competitive and kind. He was enrolled at Appalachian State University in hopes of becoming a physical therapist. Our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy is extended to Chad’s family, friends, and the entire Ledford community.”

As of Tuesday, nearly 3,500 people have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina. Only five people under the age of 24 have died from the virus in the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

The pandemic’s confirmed death toll worldwide eclipsed 1 million Tuesday, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.

ASU is providing counseling for students and faculty.

Campus move-in starts for App State Students, but with virus restrictions in place