High school football star battles COVID-19 in the ICU

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 12:49 PM EDT
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ST. PETERS, Mo. (KSDK) – Elijah Johnson, 18, has been a top football player at Fort Zumwalt East High School for the past four years.

Now, two weeks after playing his last game, the popular player everyone calls “E.J.” is off the field, fighting his toughest foe yet: COVID-19.

“He went from scoring two touchdowns in a football game to laid up in a hospital bed,” his mother Cynthia Johnson said. “It’s heartbreaking because you can’t do anything but sit here and hold his hand and pray.”

Cynthia Johnson says her son lost his sense of taste on Sept. 1 and within two days he tested positive for COVID-19.

“It’s been unimaginable, honestly, to see your baby laid up in a bed and can’t breathe, and all those wires and cords hooked up to him,” Cynthia Johnson said.

Paramedics flew the teen to a children’s hospital in St. Louis Sunday.

The 240 pounds, high school football player doesn’t have any underlying conditions and had never been hospitalized.

“I strongly feel it happened when he went back to school because he was fine when he went back to school,” Cynthia Johnson said.

The Fort Zumwalt school district has a mask-optional policy, but Cynthia Johnson would like to see a mask mandate across the county.

“I just think the county and everything else is just too lax,” she said.

Cynthia Johnson said a week before her son was finally admitted to the hospital, Elijah Johnson wanted to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I want to help the next person because this doesn’t have to happen. Please get vaccinated,” Cynthia Johnson pleaded when she finally saw her son sit up and wave. “I believe my son’s going to make it. We’re going to get him well.”

A spokesperson for Zumwalt Schools said in the past two weeks, 152 of the district’s 17,500 students have tested positive for COVID-19.

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