QUEENSBURY — Jim and Kim Vasiliou, who lost their beloved son Johnathan in the summer of 2012, express their grief in quiet, meaningful ways.
In Johnathan’s obituary, published in The Post-Star on Aug. 31, 2012, they mentioned that he made people laugh and liked cooking, Monopoly and going to the movies.
He loved the camaraderie of the football and track and field teams at Queensbury High, and he aimed to become a police officer, they wrote.
In the list of Johnathan’s loved ones, they included his brother, Michael Vasiliou, and also three of his friends from the neighborhood — Tyler Hancock, Mike Lawson, and Noah Morse — who they also named as “brothers,” because they were so close.
“The whole group kind of grew up in our basement. It was nice,” Jim said.(tncms-inline)192745bc-57ed-4544-9fde-f6aa6eefa411(/tncms-inline)
The group keeps in touch and returns to town to help with the annual event the Vasilious run in Johnathan’s memory. This year, that event — a Touch a Truck day, with big trucks present for kids to play on — takes place Saturday at the Queensbury school complex.
Tyler Hancock will be there, and Mike Lawson is flying in from Nashville. Michael Vasiliou, Johnathan’s brother, is flying in from Chicago.
Noah Morse is committed to a summer internship in Colorado this year and can’t make it, but he and his family have stayed involved, too, and helped in previous years.
Johnathan’s parents started right away with doing something good after their son’s death, despite their grief. Within weeks, they started the Johnathan R. Vasiliou Foundation, to promote awareness of sepsis, the deadly condition that killed Johnathan.
It’s important work, because many people have heard about sepsis, but ignorance of what it actually is and how to recognize it is widespread.
It’s important, because sepsis strikes quickly and unpredictably and is frequently fatal, killing nearly 270,000 Americans each year and about 25,000 people a day worldwide. One in three patients in the U.S. who die in a hospital are killed by sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Sepsis is an extreme reaction to infection, a chain reaction of overly aggressive defensive responses inside the body that damage tissues and organs. Any infection can lead to sepsis, but warning signs include a racing heartbeat, fever and shivering, cold and clammy feeling, confusion, pain and shortness of breath.
Johnathan, who was 16, had a toothache he began to complain about that Sunday at the end of August. He went to a dentist Monday morning and got an antibiotic. His condition worsened, and he was taken to the hospital, where he suffered seizures. By Tuesday, he was gone.
“There’s acute mortality. The immune system cannot handle the bacteria, because the body thinks it’s being attacked. It’s kind of a frenzy,” said Michelle Lennartz, a researcher and professor at Albany Medical College.
“If someone becomes very bad very fast, that’s not normal,” she said. “If you go to an ER and say, ‘Could this be sepsis?’ they can put a whole series of procedures in place.”
Lennartz conducts research on sepsis and the functioning of the human immune system. The Vasilious contribute to her work through money raised at their annual event, and she will be there at the school complex this weekend, staffing a table with information about sepsis.
The Vasilious will be there, too, with old friends and others, remembering their son, having fun and doing what they can to prevent the pain of sepsis from afflicting another family.