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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — An Independence mom is advocating for the youth COVID-19 vaccine after she said her son nearly died from the virus.

Jennifer Andersen’s 10-year old son contracted COVID-19 around Oct. 1. She said her son was attending school when she got a call to come pick him up.

“We thought it was maybe the weather,” she said. “It was congestion and sore throat.”

When her son, Dakota, took a COVID-19 test and it revealed he was positive, Andersen said his symptoms seemed to worsen as time passed. On Oct. 11, he was admitted to Children’s Mercy Hospital.

“Come to find out it was COVID pneumonia and turned into acute respiratory failure,” Andersen said.

His lungs were so damaged, he couldn’t breathe. Andersen said doctors put him on a ventilator, but there weren’t signs of improvement after two weeks on the machine.

“Doctors said we had to pull the plug or put him on the ECMO machine,” she said.

It was a life or death decision. The family decided his only chance of surviving would be to try the ECMO machine. It acts as a life support machine, helping patients oxygenate and ventilate while the body rests and recovers.

“It saved his life,” she said. “The sad thing is the other day he said he knew he almost died.”

Dakota has been at the hospital since mid-October and is progressing day by day.

Andersen said he’s relearning how to walk, regaining his voice, and even ate food from one of his favorite places on Wednesday.

“He got to eat finally yesterday for the first time and he had Chipotle, that’s all he wanted,” she said.

She said he wasn’t able to eat or even talk because his vocal cords are paralyzed. They said they are starting to come back.

Andersen said he’s even doing occupational and physical therapy.

With the COVID-19 vaccine now approved for Dakota and kids ranging from 5-11 years old, Andersen said her son has voiced he wants the shot.

“He wanted it previously. He said, ‘I wish I could have had that, and I probably wouldn’t be like this right now.”’

Andersen also hopes that parents might see Dakota’s journey and consider getting the vaccine for their own kids.

“I would say do it because what he went through, not good at all. You don’t want to see your child go through that,” Andersen said.