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Gilbert family struggles after son with autism contracts COVID-19

Posted at 5:03 AM, Aug 23, 2021

GILBERT, AZ — This current wave of COVID-19 is impacting an increasing number of younger Arizonans, according to data from the Department of Health Services.

Currently, nearly one in three new COVID-19 cases in our state now comes from the 0-20 age group. It's a reality one Gilbert family has lived for the past several weeks.

"It's such a helpless feeling," explains Autumn Timmins. "He's a teenager and you just want to cuddle him and kiss his boo-boos and take it away and fix the hurt...and I can't. I can't fix the hurt."

It's the kind of pain the entire Timmins family is feeling right now, as their 14-year-old son Preston lies in a hospital bed, hooked up to oxygen, battling COVID-19.

"We couldn't get him out of bed. He was so lethargic. He wasn't eating. He wasn't drinking. He was very, desperately ill. And I just knew something was very wrong."

Autumn tells ABC15 that by the time he was admitted to the hospital on August 12, Preston's oxygen levels had plummeted and he also developed pneumonia.

"It's terrifying."

What makes Preston's situation even more challenging is that he has autism.

"With him being on the spectrum, he doesn't understand it. He has sensory issues. And he doesn't like them poking and prodding him. He has to be on oxygen because he can't breathe well on his own...It was hard. But I had to remind him that buddy, we're here to make you better and to keep you alive."

Days later, Preston was sent home and looked like he was on the mend.

"By Monday, he was still struggling to walk and I looked at my husband and I said I think it might be a blood clot. And I was deeply concerned. And I thought I probably sound crazy for going that far."

Call it mother's intuition -- Autumn rushed Preston back to the hospital where sure enough, another setback -- doctors had discovered multiple blood clots in his lungs.

"If we hadn't taken that seriously, who knows what the outcome would have been?"

Autumn went on to say, "He's my baby. He's my whole world....I've always fought and advocated for him. I can't imagine the alternative."

Fortunately, as of Sunday, family says Preston is back home from the hospital.

Autumn and her husband are fully vaccinated but still contracted COVID-19. They are part of the more than 100,000 documented "breakthrough cases" in the U.S.

Experts say it's hard to know how many breakthrough cases there are since not all states are keeping track. Autumn says she is still glad she had the vaccine. Without it, she worries she would have been even sicker.