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Brayden's Mystery Illness 2:37

Brayden Richards, his mother Katherine says, "always kept everybody on their toes."

Born with a mystery, undiagnosed illness, the Hamilton boy baffled doctors and defied expectations by making it beyond his first year of life, surviving close call after close call.

"He did things when he was ready to do things," said Katherine. "He called the shots. I tried — and I did, I tried — making decisions for that boy. But no, it was all him."

Brayden died early on Saturday morning, after another night of abrupt, heart-rending changes in his health. 

On Friday, his mother frantically called for an ambulance after Brayden’s heart began to race. 

Paramedics took him to McMaster Children’s Hospital, where he’d been rushed several times before.

After they arrived, "it was looking he was going to come around," Katherine said. "His heart rate was coming from what it had been. 

"And it just kind of happened all of a sudden."

Around 5:45 a.m., Brayden’s heart stopped. He was two years old. 

He is survived by his mother, his father, Steve, and his older sister, Brianna. 

'Brayden will always remain a mystery'

Born Aug. 3, 2011, Brayden radically changed the lives of his family members. 

Because of his illness, he required constant care. He could not gag, cough or swallow, and had to be fed through a tube. The condition also stultified his hands and feet, which were bewilderingly unresponsive to touch. 

'He’s shown me how much I can actually love somebody.'—Katherine Richards

A big part of his family’s ordeal, though, was the stress of not knowing why Brayden was sick.

Doctors speculated that he had a rare genetic condition, but they never reached a concrete diagnosis, Katherine said.

"No, there was never anything," she said. "I think Brayden will always remain a mystery, that’s what I think."

But despite the labour and the confusion created by his illness, Brayden also taught his loved ones a number of important life lessons, his mother said. 

"He’s taught me to follow my gut. He’s taught me to be really strong. He’s taught me to have faith. He’s shown me how much I can actually love somebody."

Brayden also inspired Katherine to speak out in the media about her son’s condition. And she regularly updated a Facebook group dedicated to Brayden’s plight, a page that garnered roughly 1,000 followers.

She made these strides to reach out to families who were going through the same struggles. It’s an endeavour she plans to resume — when she's ready. 

“I still hope in the future that I can do something for other families like us, for siblings of children like Brayden,” Katherine said. 

“But really, for me to get into that right now, I just can’t do it.”

A funeral will be held for Brayden Richards at Bay Gardens Funeral Home (947 Rymal Rd. E.) on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., with a reception to follow. A visitation is planned for Tuesday between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.