Two Wisconsin parents are opening up about their teenager’s death while urging other parents to ask more questions during doctor’s visits
Two grieving parents are opening up about the death of their teenage son, who succumbed to a severe asthma attack last month, in hopes of encouraging other parents to listen to their instincts and advocate for their children.
Gabrielle, who requested her last name not be used, and Anthony Miller, parents of 13-year-old Ky’reelle — spoke to PEOPLE about his tragic Aug. 24 death.
“He was so happy and had the biggest smile. He’s my first son, there’s nothing like having his presence. I’m going to miss just waking up to him and having him physically here,” Gabrielle tells PEOPLE while Miller adds, “We were a close-knit family and I’m just heartbroken. There’s a piece of us missing.”
Ky’reelle of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was diagnosed with asthma at age 2, and seasonal changes made the condition worse. He learned how to manage it himself, utilizing his inhaler and nebulizer when needed and having an asthma plan in place both at home and at school.
However, in late July and early August the teen’s condition got significantly worse, sending him in and out of the hospital. At each visit, Ky’reelle was given steroids and a breathing treatment before being sent home.
Gabrielle said she noticed her son’s asthma attacks were abnormal but doctors “brushed off” the parents’ concerns that there might be something wrong. “I told them it keeps getting worse and he’s using his inhaler more than he should but they just said ‘His lungs are clear, I feel comfortable sending him home,'” she recalls.
“All they would do is give us another refill of the same medications that he was already on,” Miller adds.
The parents attempted to get Ky’reelle to an asthma specialist but the earliest available appointment was in October.
“Ky’reelle started mentioning to me that he was afraid to go to sleep because he felt his asthma was getting worse,” Gabrielle says. “He’s waking up coughing and doing his breathing treatment in the middle of the night so he used to be scared to go to sleep because that’s when he felt his asthma got the worst.”
On Aug. 24, Ky’reelle suffered a severe asthma attack at home that caused him to stop breathing.
“It happened so fast,” Gabrielle says. “He got out of the shower and said he needed his breathing treatment.”
After calling 911, Miller says the operator told them that his inhaler and breathing treatment could be triggering the asthma attack and making matters worse. “Me, mom and his little brother, we were panicking. Trying to stay calm until 911 arrived but it happened so fast,” he recalls.
“You would think the breathing treatment would be opening up his lungs, but it just happened so fast where it just closed,” Gabrielle adds. A GoFundMe page was created on behalf of the family to cover funeral costs for Ky’reelle.
Now, Miller and Gabrielle are encouraging parents to “listen to their gut” and ask more questions during doctor’s visits.
“As often as mom took him to the emergency room and doctors told her the same thing and sent them home, I just feel like in this kind of situation parents should just ask more questions,” Miller says. “Stop letting them do the same thing that they’ve been doing if that doesn’t work.”
Gabrielle also urges parents to ask questions about the side effects of asthma medications, noting that some inhalers and medications can increase a patient’s heart rate and cause children to panic.
“Understanding that asthma and allergies go hand-in-hand and also environmental and seasonal changes can cause asthma attacks to get worse,” she explains. “Like when we were living in Arizona, [Ky’reelle] didn’t have any problems at all. He was breathing fine and then we came back to Wisconsin and his asthma just totally went left.”
Gabrielle also suggested parents in similar situations see a specialist as soon as possible. “Kids with severe asthma shouldn’t be waiting for three or four months to see a specialist,” she says.
“We just want people to take notice of the [severity] of asthma,” Miller adds. “Ky’reelle and his story have really made a difference, even after his departure.”