About one month after the tragic and sudden passing of a young Bronx man, a family and community have come together in his memory.
Twenty-year-old Jason Michael Concepcion-Elukowich had just finished his sophomore semester at SUNY Plattsburg when he returned to the borough for a May dentist appointment to remove a wisdom tooth.
One week after the procedure, he fell ill and was admitted to the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and diagnosed with a rare disease called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.
HLH is an acquired or inherited blood disease caused by the over production of certain white blood cells, which leads to organ damage and the quick formation of tumors, according to Histiocytosis Association.
Jason’s dormant disease was triggered by the infection caused by the dental procedure, his mother Irene Guanill said the doctors told her.
“My son was perfectly healthy, why is he gone,” said Guanill of the confusion and pain she felt and continues to feel learning about the rare disease and the loss of her youngest child.
After Jason’s untimely passing on Friday, June 22, Irene created a Go Fund Me page to raise money for HLH research.
The page, which has a goal of $50K, raised nearly $3,000 in the first two weeks.
“It’s not the same without him,” said Guanill softly.
Jason had been studying at Plattsburg to earn a degree in psychology.
He played on the school’s rugby team and was physically fit, according to many.
Irene said her son was a self-proclaimed nerd who, many can attest, was never afraid to stand out.
His dream had been to become a psychologist and a firefighter simultaneaously.
Jason even took the firefighter exam earlier in 2018. He learnd he passed that exam days before he passed away.
He was also known in his community for always helping out and volunteering, often donating blood.
Along with the Go Fund Me Page, Jason’s former high school, Archbishop Stepinac High School even held a blood drive in his honor on Monday, July 9.
Initially that blood drive was planned when the school learned he was hospitalized and often left waiting for blood during treatment because of his rare blood type.
A Facebook group called #DoItForJason also emerged with the sole purpose of doing positive things in his memory.
Along with these efforts, dozens of people have reached out to the family to send condolences or even just to share what Jason meant for them.
“Jason was a good kid and everyone loved him,” said Guanill, who showed the Bronx Times messages she received from different people Jason knew.
One message was from a girl at Jason’s college, who shared that he had a knack for making people feel welcome.
Another message was from someone Jason knew in kindergarten, who shared her disbelief of Jason’s passing and appreciation of his friendship all those years ago.