ST CHARLES, Mo. — For the past four years, 18-year-old Elijah Johnson has been a top football player at Fort Zumwalt East High School. However, now the popular player, everyone calls "E.J." is off the field.
"He went from scoring two touchdowns in a football game to laid up in a hospital bed. I'm hurt by this. It's just unimaginable," said E.J.'s mom, Cynthia Johnson.
Two weeks after playing in his last game, E.J. is fighting his toughest foe yet: COVID-19. Plus, the teen now has double pneumonia.
"It's heartbreaking because you can't do anything but sit here by his hospital bed, hold his and pray. As a parent, I just feel helpless. He's my baby. My youngest of two," Cynthia said.
Cynthia said her son first lost his sense of taste and smell on Sept. first, and within two days he tested positive for COVID.
"Honestly to see your baby laid up in a bed, can't breathe and all those wires and cords hooked up to him, it's rough," added Cynthia Johnson.
On Sunday, paramedics flew the St. Peters teen to Children's Hospital in St. Louis.
"He has gone days without eating. Not knowing from day to day what's going to happen, if the next minute is he going to be woke? Are his eyes going to roll back in his head? Is he going to respond to me? I wouldn't wish this on anybody," Cynthia said.
The 240-pound high school football player doesn't have any underlying health conditions and he's never been hospitalized.
"I strongly feel it happened when he went back to school three weeks ago. He was doing fine when he went back to school," Cynthia said.
Currently, the Fort Zumwalt School District has a mask-optional policy. Johnson's mom would like to see a mask mandate across St. Charles County.
"I just think the county and everything else is just too lax. People need to take this virus more seriously. Covid-19 does not discriminate," Cynthia said.
Cynthia also said about a week before her son was admitted to Children's Hospital, E.J. actually wanted to get a COVID shot.
"It's too late now. I just want to help the next person because this doesn't have to happen. I would tell those who haven't gotten the shot to please, get vaccinated," Cynthia said.
A passionate plea from a mom, who today finally saw her COVID-battling son, sit up in his hospital bed and wave to her.
"That was the best sign yet. I believe my son's gonna make it. We're gonna get him well," Cynthia said.
A spokesperson for Fort Zumwalt schools said in the past two weeks, 152 of the district's 17,500 students have tested positive for COVID.