Just four days after Brad Hunstable’s son turned 13, he lost his life to COVID-19, but not from contracting the virus.
In a video that has been viewed over 10 million times since being uploaded, Hunstable shared the story of how his son tragically passed away.
“My son died from the Coronavirus as I’ve mentioned. But not in the way you think. The human condition is not to be socially isolated. And you know, I heard someone say, ‘Well, it’s like summer for these kids.’ It was. It’s not like summer for these kids. It’s just not.”
Hunstable explained that children are not getting the proper attention during the nation-wide lockdown. The available physical and emotional attention at home may be strained due to the fact that the COVID pandemic has put so much pressure on parents. Many have lost their jobs due to the shutdowns where others may have no choice but to stay home with their children, worried how the next meal will be bought for their family.
“You have parents who are stressed out because they lost their jobs. It’s not like summer. You got kids who have no interaction with their friends other than through Fortnite and FaceTime. That’s not like summer. You have kids who can’t go run off their energy at P.E. class. They can’t get that one hug from their teacher that they needed. There’s social and emotional challenges beyond comprehension.”
Hunstable explained his belief that society is in a “social emotional bubble which about to burst and it’s been coming for a while.”
Describing his son, Hunstable says the 13-year-old was coming into his own as a young man and struggled with the same hormonal and emotional changes that all kids do during that time of development.
“I think Hayden was an incredible kid. He wasn’t depressed. He wasn’t someone who moped around. Like any teenager, he was hard on himself at times. Probably a lot like me, pretty competitive guy, and like anybody, he had his own insecurities here and there.”
Hayden’s father explained that there was a build up of events that started around Christmas time when Hayden received a new monitor for Christmas.
“He was a big, big time gamer, and I got nothing wrong with gaming. That’s what he wanted to play. He’s an incredible Fortnite player, one of the top for his age in the country and I’m very proud of that gift. That was wonderful for a couple of months right before the virus started.”
Hunstable said his son accidentally broke the monitor after getting upset playing Fortnite.
“Back in February, like I used to do when I was mad at Mike Tyson’s Punch Out or whatever it was, he got mad at Fortnite, turned around and chucked that controller over his head again, just like I used to do, and hit smack in the middle of that monitor. Broke it.”
Hunstable said after explaining to Hayden that it’s not ok to react that way and that he would not be getting another monitor, they negotiated new terms for Hayden to try and earn a new one.
“So we said to him, you know what, if you took an opportunity to learn a lesson through some hard work on your own, do some more chores around the house, you treat your sister nicer, maybe we’ll talk about it. We’ll get you one. And he held up his end of the bargain.”
Hunstable said he saw his son being nicer to his sister and helping more around the house, striving to earn back a new monitor. Brad said Hayden was learning from his mistakes and evolving into a young man.
Hunstable described the tragic day that he lost his son as one that started out fantastic and productive, with Brad, Hayden, and Brad’s father all working to fix a broken well at the Hunstable home.
“A week and a half ago we had a wonderful day where me and Hayden were supposed to go get haircuts at my office. Both of us were getting shaggy as can be and then my water in my well went out and I needed help to fix it, so I called the smartest guy I know, which was my dad. I hadn’t seen him because of the virus, I hadn’t allowed him to go to work. I said you got to work from home, man. I was worried about my dad like everybody else. But he came over, helped me fix the well. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We had a glorious time, me, Hayden, him, fixing it. Dad even gave him a little mission that he had to wash something on the well. He was real proud of that,” he said.
Hayden’s father described how the family continued with the rest of the day.
“I heard him come into the kitchen. I gave him the biggest hug and I kissed him on the hair. Hugged him tight for some reason. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d hug him. Dad did the same and we talked some more. Hayden went upstairs to his room, and my dad had to go. I had to take a phone call. April went to go pick up a friend. The social isolation kind of reached the point where we felt like it was counterproductive, so we we’re going to have her friends spend the night and they were gonna get some food. My dad left. April left.
“I went into my room real quick. It’s my little daughter, me, and Hayden were at home. I took a call. Took about 25-30 minutes. I walked outside. My 8-year-old daughter came down the stairs and said, ‘Hayden hung himself’. I ran upstairs. I tried. I don’t want anybody to feel this way, to ever see what I saw, feel this pain.”
Hunstable said he tried to understand how something like this could happen, and found out Hayden had once again broken his monitor.
“We were in shock the first couple days. Just, where did this come from, how’d this happen? I’m a horrible parent, horrible. And come to find out that he had broke his monitor again, broke his monitor again. And just a rash of emotion and probably anger at himself, maybe scared to get in trouble, embarrassed, and all these emotions.”
“Kicker of it was, it was three days before his 13th birthday. He was so excited about the birthday, so excited about his birthday. He was gonna get a controller, some new controller that was going to really make his game, his X-Box game better, or his Fortnite game better. So when he broke his monitor, I believe he felt like he ruined his party, ruined his birthday. He already couldn’t have a birthday party because of social isolation. Imagine that as a twelve year old boy. You know, it’s just that’s gotta be one of those things you look forward to as a kid,” Hunstable continued.
“Then you accidentally ruin it because you break your monitor and you aren’t going to be able to use your birthday present here in a couple days, and you can’t go see your friends. You know, you’re stuck.”
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Hunstable explained that he doesn’t think children of that age understand the finality of suicide, and that Hayden had acted out of disappointment in himself for breaking his monitor.
“They have don’t have the skills. We as a society, me, as a parent, as his parents, haven’t necessarily given them all the tools to properly handle. And in that moment, you probably don’t understand the finality of the situation with the closet, and he got himself into a situation that I believe he couldn’t get out of. It might have been an accident.”
Hunstable doted on just how proud he was of his youngest daughter who on that day had alerted him of the situation upstairs, ran to get a defibrillator for her father to try to resuscitate Hayden, and then waited outside for the police while Brad continued to try to save his son.
“My eight year old daughter saw some of it. We don’t know exactly what, but the counselors, professionals will help us in that. I know when she saw blood coming out of his nose she came and got me. So she did the right thing. I don’t know if she even knew what was happening, but she knew blood,” Hunstable said.
“I happened to have an A.E.D, an automatic electronic defibrillator in my house, and I said go get that medical thing out of the pantry. She’d never seen it and didn’t know what it was. And she brought that to me. Very proud of her. She was ready to execute.”
Hunstable said he had trained his children of what to do if there was ever an emergency, and that on this day, rather than just standing in the yard waiting for the police to arrive, his 8-year-old daughter had ran to two different neighbor’s homes, alerting them of the problem, just as she had been instructed to do a year earlier during the family’s training session.
“So, I was giving him CPR and I was on the verge of collapsing, literally on the verge of collapsing. I was praying to God to give me the strength. I never knew how hard that is and out of nowhere my neighbors appear and helped me take over and helped me try to save him.”
“Social isolation is hard enough for adults, it’s even more hard for our kids,” Brad said.
“I have been saying COVID killed my son. I believe it, but not how you think. I believe my son would be alive today if he was in school and that’s not to discount the massive suffering on the world around this earth. And now what’s a horrible tragedy, I’ll be damned, I’ll be damned if I don’t make this a little bit better.”
Hunstable said one of the changes he would be making is to vote against the politicians that he feels made the wrong decisions with the lockdown and the social distancing orders.
“Politicians, for those of you who made the decisions you made, And I know you’re not perfect, but there’s got to be accountability. My rights as a citizen, which is to speak out and to influence change. And if I don’t think you’re a good enough leader, I can spend my pocketbook, and my time, and my effort to get you out of there.”
Hunstable closes by saying the last thing he wants is for his son’s lasting memory to be of the last mistake he ever made, but instead that his son be remembered for the joy he brought to others and for the a huge impact he made on the world.
“I want his memory to really be his heart, his dedication, his tenacity. I want his memory to be that he made a big difference, lit a flame, a spark around the world.”