Manitoba

Opaskwayak Cree Nation parents in shock after son contracts pneumonia, dies

The parents of an 11-year-old boy from Opaskwayak Cree Nation never expected to return home from Winnipeg without him, but he died of complications from pneumonia five days after arriving at the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital.

Dan Constant and Sheena Castel are heartbroken over the sudden death of their son

Opaskwayak Cree Nation parents in shock after son contracts pneumonia, dies

6 years ago
Duration 2:40
The parents of an 11-year-old boy from Opaskwayak Cree Nation never expected to return home from Winnipeg without him, after he died of complications from pneumonia five days after arriving at the Children's Hospital of Winnipeg.

The parents of an 11-year-old boy from Opaskwayak Cree Nation never expected to return home from Winnipeg without him, after he died of complications from pneumonia five days after arriving at the Children's Hospital of Winnipeg.

Terrel Kitchekeesik passed away early Sunday morning, after many of his organs had failed and doctors told the family no more could be done.

"When I get home it's gonna hit me, it's gonna hit me yet, I know that I'm not bringing my baby home no more," said his mother, Sheena Castel, through tears.

"I don't know what I'm going to do when I don't see my boy at home."

Terrel Kitchekeesik loved and had never missed a day of school, but he stayed home last Monday after complaining to his mom of feeling sore and sick. He'd thrown up that day and had a bad cough and fever, she added.

"I just told him relax, and rest, because he's always out and about all the time," said Castel. 

The eldest of four boys, Kitchekeesik was a spirited, active and well-loved kid. Terrel had gone swimming over the weekend and Castel assumed he'd picked up a cold or flu at the pool. He complained of feeling unwell over the weekend too, but still went outside to bike around with friends, so she didn't think it was serious.

On Tuesday, that changed.

"I seen him laying on the couch, he didn't look right, his chest was caving in," said Dan Constant, Kitchekeesik's step-dad, adding Terrel's eyes were closed and his breathing was shallow. 

"He had no colours on his lips, his lips were pale, he looked half dead," he said.

The terrified parents rushed him to St. Anthony's General Hospital in The Pas that afternoon, where he went for X-rays and several other tests. It was the first time he'd ever been taken to the hospital in his life.

"They showed us the fluid and there was only that much of his lungs showing on both, " said Constant, indicating about an inch with his fingers.

Terrel Kitchekeesik, 11, got sick with pneumonia and died over the weekend at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. The adventure-loving youngster rode in a helicopter at home in Opaskwayak Cree Nation earlier this year.

The boy was sedated, intubated and air-transferred to Winnipeg.

"I was telling him that I'd like to thank him for bringing this family together," said Constant, moments before his step-son closed his eyes.

Constant said he stepped up to be the boy's father eight years ago after Castel told him she and Terrel were a packaged deal. It wasn't long before he loved Terrel like he was his own.

"I told him I'd tell him the story when he gets back from Winnipeg. But he never made it back from Winnipeg. We never got to say goodbye," he said, breaking down.

The infection spread to his blood and Terrel's organs started shutting down when he got to the Children's Hospital at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.

"It was his lungs, then it was his kidneys, then it was his liver, then it was his blood cells," said Castel.

"Every day it went on: worse and worse and worse and worser. After that, they told us they couldn't do anything else," said Constant.

Terrel was surrounded by family early Sunday when he was taken off of dialysis.

"All of my little ones were laying with him, in bed with him, then he was gone," said Castel, tears rolling down her cheeks. Their other boys, all younger than four years of age, adored their big brother.

"They didn't want to let go of him after that. I just told them that 'bro's gone …You gotta let him go now,'" she said.

The community is mourning the loss of the youngster too, with flags flying at half-mast at Joe A. Ross School where Terrel had just started grade six in the Cree language program.

"He loved Sunday school; he took his bros to Sunday school, he had a lot of friends," said Constant.

"He smiled all the time, never let nobody down," said Castel.

Many have made donations to the family to help with their travel expenses and buy food for their boys while in Winnipeg. They're grateful as well to the Opaskwayak Cree Nation band office, teachers and a funeral home who are helping cover their son's funeral expenses.

"He knew a lot of people, for a little guy. A lot of people knew him. More than I thought anyway. A lot of people are helping," said Constant.

Terrel Kitchekeesik, the eldest of four boys, loved to ride his bike, visit with friends and take his brothers to Sunday school. He had never been admitted to hospital before getting sick with pneumonia. (Sheena Castel)


He never got to tell his son the story of why he thanked him, but he believes Terrel already knew how loved he was.

Now, the couple are waiting on their son's autopsy and doctors told them tests would be done to determine the virus he had. They plan to have his wake and funeral in Opaskwayak Cree Nation, then his burial in Split Lake, Man., his mother's home community.

"He came and visited me in my dreams last night. Holding me, didn't want to let go of me, telling me he loved me, loved his bros, loved his dad. Saying he's sorry we couldn't say sorry to him that he left so fast," said Castel, tears rolling down her cheeks.

"I told him I'm sorry my boy, that we didn't say sorry to you. I didn't want to wake up from the dream because I was holding my baby and it felt so real that he was still here with me."

On a recent trip to the grocery store, Constant said he heard a baby coughing violently like Terrel had, and he stopped the mother to tell her to take the child to get medical attention.

"Everyone out there if your babies are sick and you don't know what's going on, take him in. Don't make it a last minute thing. Do it right away," he said.

now