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Family mourns loss of Warren County native

Photos submitted to the Times Observer Colten Brown, who grew up in Warren County and graduated from Warren Area High School, died Jan. 6 about three weeks after contracting COVID-19. He was 24 years old.

COVID-19 doesn’t just prey on the old and those with underlying health conditions.

Colten Brown was in the prime of his life.

He was a big man with a big personality, a big smile, and a big bear hug. He worked out and had no contributing conditions.

He died on Jan. 6, about three weeks after contracting the virus. He was 24.

His family is trying to come to grips with the loss.

“Our baby’s gone,” Colt’s mother, Pam, said. “He was young and he was strong. He was healthy and he was so full of life.”

Colt grew up in Warren County — Tidioute and Warren.

After graduating from Warren Area High School, he went on to Jamestown Community College and Penn State — Behrend, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

For the last year, he was an officer with the Erie County Adult Probation and Parole Department.

“He was very proud of that,” Colt’s brother, Cody, said. “That was like his dream job.”

“He was also very active with Amway,” Cody said. “He wanted to build his own business doing that on the side. He worked hard on that.”

“He was an active guy,” he said. “He ate vitamins like they were candy… protein… everything else. He got up at 4 in the morning and worked out.”

While he looked after himself, he was even more focused on those around him.

“If I needed help, he was always there,” David said.

“He looked out for others,” Cody said. “He wanted to make sure they were having fun and they were safe.”

“He was a great young man. He would just overwhelm you,” Colt’s father, David, said. “He could talk about anything. He would listen.”

“It wasn’t just his 6’7 body size that would make an impression,” Cody said. “It was his laugh and his smile and his bear hugs that you couldn’t get away from. Or he might throw you over his shoulder.”

“I had somebody say, ‘You know, if you ever met Colt, and you didn’t like him, you’d better go home and look in the mirror,” David said.

“The problem wasn’t with Colt,” Pam said. “It was with you. You’d better take a self evaluation.”

He enjoyed hunting and fishing, spending time with family, and working on his truck… ‘Ronda.’

“That was his very first truck,” Pam said. “He loved that truck.”

When he got another truck — “Rousey”“he kept his first truck,” Cody said. “He was rebuilding Ronda.”

Then came COVID-19.

“He started exhibiting symptoms — a fever and coughing,” Cody said.

That was Tuesday, Dec. 15.

His fever maxed out at 103.

On Saturday, he went to UPMC Hamot.

He was admitted immediately.

Within hours, he was in a medically-induced coma and on a ventilator.

He was tested for COVID-19 and was found to be positive.

He never regained consciousness.

To make the situation worse, his family and friends were not allowed to visit.

“No one was allowed with him,” Cody said.

“It was just terrible,” David said. “I couldn’t even get in to see him. They wouldn’t let me.”

“That’s tough,” he said. “You’re his parent. No matter how old they are, you try to do whatever you can for them.”

“The one comfort we were able to have, when he was in ICU, they had an iPad,” Cody said.

Family members were able to see Colt and talk to him.

“With me talking to him, I felt that he could hear me, giving him hope,” David said.

Even that was taken away when Colt was flown to UPMC — Presbyterian in Pittsburgh.

There was no such technology available to patients there.

“When Colt’s friends and family found out that they did not have an iPad when he went to Pittsburgh a lot of them did donate money for an iPad,” Cody said. “We are sending down four iPads for that floor so families can see and talk to their loved ones. That’s something we can carry on Colt’s name with.”

But, the staff worked with the family. “The nurses would tell him messages for us,” Cody said. “Eventually, they allowed one person in to see him. My mom would take her cell phone in so we could FaceTime with Colt.”

The virus had done a lot of damage.

“It tore his lungs up,” David said.

“His lungs were so damaged, they weren’t healing from the COVID pneumonia that he got,” Cody said.

At UPMC — Presby, Colt was put on an ECMO — which took over for his heart and lungs.

“They were trying to keep him stable,” Cody said, “get oxygen into his body, get CO2 out, get his body to relax so he could heal.”

While he was on the ECMO, Colt had a massive stroke.

Colt had been treated with a number of therapies.

“They did try the medication that they’ve been giving the COVID patients,” Cody said. “It was counter-productive. They did give him plasma with the antibodies. That was all they could do for him.”

“They did absolutely everything they could do,” Cody said.

“They had good hopes for him,” David said. “They did their best.”

The doctors had done what they could. They even eased the visitation restrictions.

“The last two days they allowed my family in to see him,” Cody said.

At that point, “it was all on him to fight it,” he said.

“He was a fighter,” David said. “He fought hard.”

In fact, it is small consolation, but Colt did fight off COVID.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, the family was informed that Colt’s latest test came back negative.

“He beat it,” Pam said.

But the disease had taken enough of a toll and Colt died that same day.

“He was COVID free. It was the damage,” David said. “The damage tore him up.”

Friends and family will be received from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at Praise Fellowship, followed by a brief service in the church, including a Masonic Funeral Service.

“We’re going to be following the CDC guidelines very strictly,” Cody said. “That’s what killed my brother. We have to make sure it’s safe for everyone.”

Those who are not comfortable attending in person may listen to the service on FM radio — 87.9 — from the church parking lot or stream the services on Colt’s Facebook.

“We feel that this needs to be done,” Pam said. “We want everyone who wants to be there to be able to be there.”

“We need him to give him the proper respect and let people say their goodbyes,” Cody said. “He made an impression on everyone.”

The family, including Colt, took COVID seriously from the beginning.

They weren’t paralyzed with fear, but they didn’t deny the disease was real and dangerous. They had been following the COVID guidelines.

“I thought it was real, but I wasn’t expecting it to hit so close to home,” Cody said. “You don’t expect it to affect someone in the prime of their life doing everything they can.”

“He wore his mask,” Pam said. “He cleaned up. He really did follow the rules.

“We keep hearing it affects older people and not younger adults,” Cody said. “It’s just not true.”

They hope Colt’s story might help people by letting them know how serious the virus is and to protect against it.

“It doesn’t matter who you are,” she said. “You’re not invulnerable.”

“It’s real,” David said.

“Take the stuff seriously,” Cody said.

“You need to understand, it can be you next time,” Pam said. “It can be you that it takes. It can be your parents that are broken or your brother.”

And, whether it’s COVID-19 or something else, anyone’s time could be short.

“Love your family,” she said. “You just don’t know.”

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