ELIZABETH CITY, NC-- It was the first year Jaiden Jones would play football, but he never got to take the field for a game.
Jaiden, 8, suddenly died on September 7 after one of his first practices with the Elizabeth City Rampage youth team. His father watched him collapse on the field.
"It's like a dream and I'm just gonna wake up," said Troy Jones.
Jones said his son was quickly rushed to Sentara Albemarle Hospital. His mother was by his side.
"We were telling him we loved him," said Dawn Graham, Jaiden's mom. "It was going to be alright."
After multiple attempts at CPR, Jaiden died. His parents said the doctor informed them he suffered from a heart anomaly.
The condition was a valve defect called an "Anomalous Origin of the Left Pulmonary Artery", Jones explained. The result killed tissue in his heart.
Jaiden's parents said they never saw warning signs and their son didn't complain about pain.
"We had no clue," said Jones.
The parents said they were even more confused because Jaiden always ran and did Tae Kwon Do for three years.
"Anyone's kid could be running out here still and have the anomalous origin and not know it," said Jones.
The mother and father said they will continue to raise awareness of the importance of health checks.
"If these kids are playing these sports, let's try to get them full physicals because it's obvious that they need it," Jones said.
The Elizabeth City community has honored Jaiden in multiple ways.
The town's high school football team held a moment of silence. Jaiden was awarded the MVP award and his jersey, #22, was retired.
"We're not going to let Jaiden die. We're going to let him live," said Jones. "That's why we're raising awareness."
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