Unvaccinated 20-Year-Old Dies of COVID Complications After Brain Abscess Ruptures

A 20-year-old man has died after suffering serious complications from a COVID-19 infection.

Tyler Gilreath, a student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW,) passed away on Tuesday due to complications resulting from the disease, WECT reported.

The 20-year-old, who was unvaccinated, had contracted the virus in mid-August, two days after moving from Cary to Wilmington in order to attend UNCW.

After catching the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, Gilreath became very sick. While he eventually overcame the worst of the initial COVID-19 infection, he was left with a sinus infection that ended up affecting his brain.

"Two days after he moved in with brand new roommates, he got COVID from them. He was very, very sick for three weeks. He got over COVID but it left him with a horrendous sinus infection that somehow penetrated his brain," Gilreath's mother Tamra Demello told WECT.

"He wasn't even able to go to school on campus. He never even started except what he was able to do online, which is very difficult when you have 102 temperature and you're vomiting and having everything else unpleasant that comes with COVID."

At one point, Gilreath developed an abscess—a pus-filled swelling—in his brain, which eventually ruptured.

He lost consciousness and his roommates rushed him to hospital. He briefly regained consciousness but his condition continued to worsen. CT scans conducted on Friday showed that his brain had suffered irreversible damage and there was no more blood flowing to the vital organ.

The decision was taken to remove Gilreath from life support on Tuesday. Since he was an organ donor, surgeons removed his heart, liver, pancreas and kidney so they could be given to others in need, his family said.

"This is just such a devastating shock. It'll just leave such a hole in our heart forever that can never be filled," Demello told WECT through tears on Monday.

The 20-year-old's mother said her son had previously been healthy and had no known underlying health conditions. She had previously tried to convince him to get vaccinated and was mostly unsuccessful.

"I cajoled, encouraged, threatened, and nagged for him to get vaccinated," Demello said. "I did everything I could possibly think. I think he did some research where he was thinking that it was going to hurt his heart long-term or something... I'm not even sure where he was getting his information, which is super frustrating.

"If these kids could just realize not only what this could do to them, but how devastating it is to everybody around them. I'm just begging them to please go get their shots."

Gilreath had told his mother that he would get the shot once he reached UNCW, but he never got the chance.

In a tribute to Gilreath posted to Facebook, Demello said she was "devastated beyond belief."

"My incredible son, Tyler Gilreath, lost his battle with a brain infection that ruptured after contracting a sinus infection that moved to his brain. The sinus infection was a result of Covid he contracted 3 days after moving to UNC Wilmington. No, he was not vaccinated. He rationalized that a healthy 20 year old that gets it 'won't get that sick.'"

"The only thing that brings any sense of meaning to this needless tragedy is that Tyler signed up to be an donor when he got his license. Tomorrow his body will be harvested so up to 80 people can live or enjoy more normal lives with the gift of his organs, skin, tendons, ligaments, etc. He will live on in my heart and through those recipients. I know he is with God, but the hole in my life he leaves will never go away. I love you, Son. Rest in peace."

A young man in a hospital bed
Stock image showing a young man in a hospital bed. Tyler Gilreath, 20, passed away on Tuesday after suffering complications from a COVID-19 infection iStock