Remembering Carson: Parents of Woodbrook student urge calm

news-carson3In the wake of Carson Raymond's October 10 death from possible complications of H1N1, his parents are urging other parents not to panic.

News that a local boy died after a bout with H1N1 has made headlines, but the father of Carson Raymond, the Woodbrook Elementary School third-grader who died October 10, says he and his wife do not want what happened to their son to incite panic.

"Parents should not be freaked out that their kid is going to die from this," says John Raymond, noting that H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, is usually no more serious than regular seasonal flu for the average child.

"Carson," his father explains, "just had the wrong body for this illness."

Since it first emerged last spring in Mexico, H1N1  has spread around the globe, and its potential severity has been the subject of constant prognosticating–- particularly as some experts invoke the "Spanish Flu" pandemic of 1918, which killed half a million Americans and at least 50 million people worldwide.

Most of those 89-years-ago deaths occurred in the fall and winter, when a mutated and deadlier version of the spring strain emerged. So far, according to the CDC, this time around, H1N1 has not mutated into something more deadly– though there have been fatalities, just as there are each year with seasonal flu. And it is possible H1N1 will prove more deadly as flu season progresses.

The most recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control indicate 76 laboratory confirmed pediatric deaths from H1N1 since April (There have been 830 deaths including both children and adults). Over the last three years, the number of pediatric deaths from seasonal flu has ranged from 46 to 88 per year. Of this year's H1N1 victims, an estimated 70 percent had a known underlying condition.

On September 28, a 47-year-old man died of suspected complications from H1N1 at UVA hospital. According to UVA Medical Center spokesperson Sally Jones, the man was more susceptible to the virus due to an underlying health condition. And Carson Raymond, his father says, also falls into that category.

Carson, the oldest of the Raymonds' three boys, was born more than two months premature. Arriving at just 30 weeks and weighing just 3 pounds six ounces, the first 51 days of his infancy were spent in a hospital. While Raymond says doctors haven't suggested that Carson's difficult start contributed to his later health problem, his heart condition rendered him particularly vulnerable to any strain of influenza.

Two and a half years ago, when Carson was six, Raymond says, he contracted a common seasonal strain of Type B flu and nearly died after suffering viral myocarditis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart muscle. The condition lasted six months, says Raymond, during which time Carson had regular appointments with both a cardiologist and his pediatrician.

By this past February, however, approximately a year and a half after Carson's heart had returned to normal, doctors assured his parents their sports-loving son was well. This fall, he was playing in the Northside Cal Ripken Baseball League, as he had every year since he was four, and was thriving at school and at home, where his father described him as "a great big brother" to six-year-old Tucker and four-year-old Wyatt.

"He was always taking care of them," Raymond says, "letting them win."

In addition to sports, Carson–- who turned 9 September 25–- enjoyed Pokemon and video games. The blond boy with a dusting of freckles across his nose was "one of those kids who never had an enemy," says his mom. "He was just a nice boy who was a friend to all."

Despite doctors' assurances, when their son fell ill with flu-like symptoms earlier this month, his parents immediately took him to a pediatrician, where on Monday, October 5, he tested positive for Type A flu. According to CDC spokesperson Amanda Aldridge, "almost all" of the influenza viruses identified so far in 2009 are Type A H1N1 and are responsive to antiviral drugs including Tamiflu.

After two days on Tamiflu, however, Carson seemed lethargic, his father says, and his mother, Jennifer Raymond, took him back to the doctor to have him checked on Wednesday morning, October 7. His heart function appeared to be normal, but by that evening, concerned that he was dehydrated–- and recalling the terrifying ordeal the last time he'd had a flu–- the Raymonds took Carson to UVA hospital, where doctors assessed his heart function.

By stethoscope and EKG, his heart seemed to be functioning normally, his father recalls, but in an echocardiogram less than an hour later, doctors discovered his heart was, in fact, enlarged. With both parents present, his father says, Carson suddenly went into cardiac arrest.

Because he was already in the hospital, doctors were able to revive and stabilize him by Thursday morning, but the inflammation meant he was unable to his maintain blood pressure. By Friday, Carson was placed on life support. He died on Saturday.

Even amid fresh grief, John Raymond says he is grateful to the team of doctors and nurses who stayed with them during the ordeal.

"They worked incredibly hard and were so compassionate," says Raymond. "I don't know how they do that job every day."

Raymond says he's also grateful for the time he and his wife were able to share with Carson in the hospital. Despite being heavily sedated, Carson opened his eyes several times and looked at his parents as they spoke to him.

"As horrible as it all is," says an emotional Raymond, "my wife and I were able to have a few moments at the end to say goodbye."

Raymond says Carson was part of a "very small" percentage of children who will have an "over-the-top" reaction to flu. Because of his earlier heart problems, he was already participating in a study being overseen at UVA by Dr. Doug Willson in UVA's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit investigating why certain children have such severe flu responses. As part of that study, Carson's parents have submitted DNA samples so researchers can attempt to determine if there is genetic component.

According to Willson, pediatric viral myocarditis is "rare," although its exact prevalence is unknown–- in part because many times a child recovers without it being diagnosed. Of those children suffering severe enough myocarditis to require hospitalization, 25 percent will die, says Willson.

Still, despite the potential for the H1N1 flu season to prove more deadly than seasonal flu, "parents don't need to panic," says Dr. Greg Gelburd, a family practitioner who, in addition to prescribing Tamiflu for patients with underlying conditions, regularly recommends the over-the-counter homeopathic flu remedy Oscillococcinum. Although little research has been  conducted on the remedy, Gelburd says he believes it lessens the flu's effects in his otherwise healthy patients.

And what of the H1N1 vaccine? Albemarle County and Charlottesville public schools have announced H1N1 vaccinations to students over the next several weeks, and most pediatricians are urging parents to vaccinate their children, despite some parents' concerns over safety.

"We have had literally hundreds of millions of people vaccinated against flu with flu vaccine made in this way," says CDC Director Thomas Frieden in an October 6 teleconference. "That enables us to have a high degree of confidence in the safety of the vaccine."

Frieden further notes that vaccination is important not only in preventing individuals from getting sick themselves and missing work or school; it also prevents the spread of the disease, a critical piece in public health management.

In the same week that they are planning a funeral for their first-born, John Raymond says that while he and wife Jennifer are planning to vaccinate their two younger children, they want to make sure Carson's legacy isn't one of irrational fear.

"There's no evidence to support that the swine flu is worse than the regular flu," says Raymond, expressing concern that if everyone rushes children to the emergency room at the first signs of illness, hospitals will become overwhelmed and "the people who really need the help won't get it."

"Carson just had the wrong tools to fight this fight," says his dad, who has already begun organizing a foundation to give young children access to a sport that Carson loved through improvements to the Woodbrook T-ball program including helping fund involvement by children who can't afford to pay. In lieu of flowers, the Raymonds ask that donations be sent to The Carson Raymond Woodbrook T-Ball Foundation, P.O. Box 6551  Charlottesville, 22906 or be made through the website,

A viewing will take place Wednesday at Teague Funeral Home from 7-9pm, and Carson's funeral will be held on Thursday, October 15 at 3pm at the First Baptist Church on Park Street.

–last updated Tuesday, October 13 at 2:29 pm


Thanks, ThirdGradeTeacher. Carson was a sweet young man who, as my son says, "was always nice to everybody." His death is a great loss to his family, his friends, his classmates and our community. I hope that people will help honor his memory and celebrate his life by getting involved with The Carson Raymond Woodbrook T-Ball Foundation (

I'm just suggesting, some parents of children with certain disorders (kidney, liver, heart, etc.) may desire a heads up or a personal contact from the school system with regard to the illnesses happening in a certain school. I have absolutely NO sympathy for parents who are stupid or haven't made an effort to pre-plan caretakers for THEIR OWN sick kids. It is an abusive, negligent act to send an ill child to school. Any parent or guardian who knowingly sends a child to school with the flu should be called into question, as they put others at risk.

What a beautiful thing to do, reaching out to other parents who, like myself, heard about this and became more fearful for their own children. I don't think I've ever been so touched by comments in a newspaper article. I have been saying praters for this family since I heard bout their grievous loss, and will keep doing so. I am very sorry.

what a beautiful article

Why does everything have to be a conspiracy? Why do people always reflexively doubt what health officials are saying? What would be their interest in lying to you? Really, folks, these parents have it right: Be calm, be smart, and don't make this thing bigger than it is. Literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of local residents have caught this thing. TWO have died, and both had other conditions.

Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond, for sharing the story of your incredibly wrenching ordeal. You are brave and incredibly generous to be so open. I am so sorry for your loss.

My condolences to the family and friends of Carson. I can't imagine the pain of losing a child.

Honestly, they would object to providing that data because they don't have it on hand upon request. It takes time to accumulate, despite whatever "demands" you believe parents should make on the school system. The data gets reported to the state every quarter? You want the data broken down by homeroom every quarter hour? Get real.

re:"The figures are only a click away. " Should be easy to back that up with a link.

re:"I really don’t know for sure" no, it sure sounds like you don't.

re: "parents deliberately sending sick children to school under these circumstances should be reported to the authorities."

Absolutely NOTHING is preventing ANYONE from reporting whatever they want to the "authorities", Gail! Please, feel free to report all these parents all you want! Good luck with that.

Given that there are about 12,000 students in Albemarle County, I would think that this information is of particular interest right now and that local media would be doing a service to the community by requesting and publishing this information daily until the flu epidemic has ended. It may not be reasonable to do this for every classroom but it should not be a big deal to give the absentee numbers daily for each school and then parents could check out the situation in their child's classes.
There is concern about panic but I believe that accurate open information is the best way to allay panic.

Even better, break the absenteeism rate, numbers down by school and then by individual homeroom or classroom. You would then know what the exact figures are. Parents,others should demand this information from the school system. If you do request the figures, my bet the school system will resist in handing it over. As I indicated before, administrators are asking staff to refrain from talking about the whole story.

What would it hurt? You are right that some parents will find this information interesting. However, I'm not sure that everyone gets that when a big issue like H1N1 hits, everyone involved on the local level, from the local health department to the city schools, has that to contend with in addition to their everyday jobs. Nobody's hiring extra employees to deal with the extra work created by H1N1 and the concern it's created in the community. The local media affiliates have other stories to cover and probably aren't too eager to take on the task of pestering the schools on a daily basis to submit absenteeism numbers. The schools must still carry on with the business of educating students and trying to catch up the ones who miss school. That school secretary who you are so sure can update the website every day? She is probably dealing with an onslaught of calls from concerned parents in addition to everything else she deals with. I've never met an underworked school secretary.

All that being said, it *might* just be a matter of someone quickly entering a number into a form on a website and hitting update. But I'm not sure what good this info will do parents. Like Hoolarious said, how meaningful will this data be? Will you keep your child home just because their school has a high absenteeism rate, even if they don't seem sick at all? If so, do you plan to also restrict them from going out in public altogether? I would think most parents would find get more useful data asking their kids everyday "So, how many kids in your class were absent today? Was there anyone who was there but seemed sick? Have any of your friends seemed sick?"

I'm just not convinced that that many parents would find this a useful service. But if you are so sure, then take it off this forum and write some school principals and/or Pam Moran. And if you think it should be the media's responsibility, write to the editors at the Daily Progress, the local TV stations, the Hook and Cville. I doubt any of these people are checking the Hook's blog for suggestions on how they should do their jobs, so you'll have to contact them directly.

I thought your plan was to report the parents of sick kids to the authorities.

Channel 29 reported today that two schools in Staunton recently saw absentee numbers around 20 percent. If this 20% number holds true in the Albemarle school system as well, this would mean 2,400 students out sick.

Sadly enough, as someone mentioned above, that's a lot of parents who have to take off and stay home or find babysitters. Or even worse yet, a whole lot of parents who send their kids to school sick so they can go to work and make that almighty dollar.

Hoolarious has it nailed: a "wildly open society."

Last night, CBS said that Woodbrook's vaccine program will now begin on October 19, since it has the largest percentage of abseentism due to the flu.

What's the point? Seriously. The vaccine takes about three weeks to reach levels in the blood that are considered "effective."

So the "effective" date is about a month from now. Won't everybody at Woodbrook have been exposed by a month from now?

Is it really possible that there are ppeople at Woodbrook that haven't been exposed?

Let's say the local media did begin publishing (somehow) daily updates on the absentee numbers from each local school (and let's set aside all the ways in which doing so would be really difficult). Now parents can see on a daily basis how many students are absent from their child's school. How meaningful is that data? How do I know which kids are missing school for flu, which ones are missing for non-flu illnesses, and which ones are perfectly healthy but absent because their parents are freaking out about the flu? I might see higher numbers of absences at my child's school, but couldn't I draw the conclusion that many of those kids just have a sniffle and their cautious parents are keeping them home just to be safe? I don't know that I, as a parent, can really draw any meaningful conclusion from just seeing the numbers.

I would also point out that we're focusing on schools as if we know that the schools are definitively the source of any and all viruses our children bring home. Our kids go to the store, to the playground, to birthday parties, to friends' houses, all over the place. I'm not sure it's useful to fixate on the schools when we live in a wildly open, mobile society and our kids go everywhere. What if you learn that your kid's school has a slightly increased absence rate (though you don't know why) and you decide to keep your kid home--unless you put him/her in a bubble, I would not be so sure that you've solved the problem.

You know, Carson was a bright, sweet little boy and some of you people are insensitive, uneducated idiots.

The local schools should be completely open and up front with parents in regard to the actual absenteeism rates. I'm unconvinced this is the case. A local school nurse told me the principal told her not to reveal the true situation. Parents of any at risk child should be given the option and support for removing their child from the school environment, until the flu has cleared. Are exact rates of absenteeism and related reports (individual schools) open to the public, media?

I actually asked how many students from Woodbrook on October 7th when I revceived a call from the school nurse asking why my son wasn't in school. She didn't answer the question, and when I pressed her by saying that my son had told me there were only 5 children in the entire 3rd grade the day before, she referred me to the principal. I later had a conversation with the school offices and expressed my concern for why parents had not been notified of the excessive number of absences. We recieved an electronic message from Dr. Sterret (principal) later in the day informing us that there had been excessive absences over the week. I had my son tested for Swine Flu that day but it came back negative. He returned to school on Thursay and developed the Flu over the next several days. I'm not sure if I would have kept him home before that--there really is no way to know what you would have done before hand, but maybe I could have taken more preventative measures (hand-washing, sanitizer, etc.)I am so sorry for Carson's family--I cannot imagine missing my son's after school talks, sports activities, sibling squabbles and play. I cannot imagine not having him to hold onto anymore or kiss goodnight. We mothers hurt for our friend and her family...

The new numbers put the "underlying conditions" tripe at 46% not 70%. I believe information is being withheld at all levels regarding this outbreak and people are dying due to that.

Where is the vaccine? The only statement I have seen is that a majority of the doses have been delayed for another few weeks.
I suppose as long as the rich and powerfull get their fix we can just sit back and wait like good little serfs.

Well, why not garner the exact numbers,absenteeism in the local schools? What would doing so hurt?

What amazing people. In this time of grief to attempt to help others, both in their generous gift to children, and in reaching out to calm the fears of other parents whose children may fall ill.


the reported absenteeism at Woodbrook was one in five students last week, wasn't it? And you know that there were children being sent to school who were sick because their parents couldn't make other arrangements--or were stupid. That's always the case.

Don't parents have all the information they need to decide whether to send their "healthy" children to school at this point?

What would be the number that would make you keep your kids home? A 30% absentee rate? 40%?

Or do you think somebody else should make the decision for parents?

I think that the absentee rates at every county school should be on the ACPS website. There are a lot of students with identified higher risk conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and heart conditions in our schools and their parents and doctors should be deciding what is best for those children, rather than the school system. If some parents of low risk children elect to keep their children home until the vaccine is available and has had time to be effective, life will go on and the schools will manage.
In my opinion, parents deliberately sending sick children to school under these circumstances should be reported to the authorities. I know many families are under economic stress but this is a mostly minor illness, which can put some people at real risk, so parents must find a way to take care of their ill children.

Thanks for the clarification UHOO. My guess, no one has pressed them for detailed figures, but I really don't know for sure. It seems the media, parents, the public should not be forced to send in a FOI request in order to learn the whole story. School systems should voluntarily post this detailed information at all periods of any given school year. The figures are only a click away. Actually, absenteeism rates can be an indicator for other strengths, weaknesses within a school. I'm concerned when a staff member tells me she has been given a gag order. Sadly that has happened with this particular flu epidemic.

How could I know whether or not any individual parent has put in a request for absenteeism figures? Only the school system knows this. The principals of every school do KNOW and could provide absenteeism figures "for the day before". Every day teachers turn in a report to the office. I would hope individual schools have web sites. It would be easy for the school secretary or a volunteer to enter data on the school web site with regard to individual homeroom classes in order for parents to click and read. Such collective information for the school should not be guarded for months. In other words, the school administration could "set up" a situation of timely reporting to parents, with regard to the details, absenteeism rates for their child's classroom. I should have said, "In this day and age the information should only be a click away!"

Uhoo, do you object to the school system providing parents with an exact count, absenteeism? I'm not speaking about a percentage for a particular school or the entire system. I mean a complete,100% accurate count as reported to the state. At this point, exact details are being withheld from the general public, parents, and school staff.

No, I don't object to that. What I object to is the assumption that the schools are withholding it because of some nefarious plot to keep parents in the dark. Has anyone actually requested the info and been refused?

If schools are refusing to provide absentee reports, then I would think you could make a request under the Freedom of Information Act and they would have to respond within five days. Better yet, there is an election going on that includes School Board races, so I think the candidates would be pretty forthcoming. Ask Brian Wheeler.

But don't just assume that you are being duped if you have not asked the question.

You know something people? I wonder how in the holy heck all of us survived childhood. I never had a flu vaccine until I was an adult, and only then because my situation was compromised at the time. We are seeing an explosion in food allergies and such because we are being so overly cautious.

I have been sick for the last 6 weeks with one thing or another, and many people I know have been ill for the last month. I am quite sure some of them had the swine flu. Some of it isn't. So its no surprise to me that lots of kids are out for things other than the swine flu.

Parents need to use common sense. When your kids get sick, keep them home for a day or two, to limit the spread, and let them get through it. If they get very ill, with a high fever, or hard breathing, then do something more drastic.

Lets get real. if all these kids do have swine flu, then its a good sign. Why? because it means as a whole, Swine Flu is not a death sentence AND it means that all their immune systems will now be primed when it blends in with other nasties and comes back around.

I certianly don' t buy into the nonsense that there is a conspiracy. Remember, if government is so incompetent, why are they suddenly able to mount some secret plot effectively?


My hat goes off to health care workers who have, by choice, been on the front line during this pandemic (declared months ago by the WHO). The available mist and injected vaccines have been going to health care workers who have the greatest chance of contracting H1N1. Given that they must build immunity over several weeks, while they are also potentially being exposed, odds are that they will get H1N1. Don't be surprised when there are fewer folks to help you when you do seek help. H1N1 is so widespread, world-wide, that testing for H1N1 has been stopped because there are no longer enough test kits. Certain age segments ( i.e. baby-boomers and older) have been declared expendable because they will be last to get the available vaccine. That does smack of conspiracy.

No evidence to support that swine flu is worse than regular flu? Really? Is that why children and pregnant mothers are dieing from it? The media can spin it either way Ohh it's the swine flu run for your lives! Or it's no worse than regular flu. Where are the vaccines? Swine flu is all over Albemarle county schools. Parents don't ever let anyone tell you not to take your kid to the hospital be a true parent and make your own decisions.