Horizon Middle School honors 13-year old who died Christmas Eve of rare and sudden heart condition

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — An Osceola County community is honoring a 13-year-old boy who died suddenly over the holidays.

Students and staff at Horizon Middle School wore red on Wednesday because it was Xavier Cooley’s favorite color.

He died Christmas Eve from a heart condition known as Aortic Dissection.

According to the Mayoclinic, that’s a tear in the body’s main artery which is rare but most common in men over aged 60.


Idiana McGill spoke to us on behalf of Xavier’s family. She’s his mother’s longtime best friend.

“He was her golden child … He was just such a cheerful, friendly boy,” said McGill.

McGill said the Horizon Middle School student was an active middle child in a tight knit family.

“He actually for a whole year rode his bicycle to and from school every day. So that’s why this was kind of like a shock. He was such a healthy boy,” said McGill.

According to McGill, Xavier had been hanging out with friends on Christmas break when he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.

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“He kept saying that his pain was below his chest, above the stomach area,” said McGill.

Less than 24 hours later, he had passed away at the hospital. The family discovered afterwards it was due to Aortic Dissection.

“If you’re not looking for it, and it’s not found quickly, it can become very, very deadly,” said Shawn Sima, the Impact Director for Who We Play For, a non-profit that exists to eliminate preventable and sudden youth cardiac death.

Sima said the condition is often not picked-up during a typical physical but can occasionally be detected following an electrocardiogram also known as an EKG. It’s a quick and often lifesaving test that evaluates the heart.

According to Sima, Aortic Dissection is often associated with hereditary conditions such as Marfan’s syndrome and Ehlers Danlos syndrome.

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“If your child is complaining of any kind of chest pain, chest discomfort, numbness or tingling in their arms, shortness of breath, or dizziness, especially if they’re passing out or collapsing, you should not ignore that,” said Sima.

Xavier’s family wants people to pay attention to those symptoms as they too work to learn more about the condition. They hope to raise awareness about Aortic Dissection in the aftermath of Xavier’s death.

As they laid Xavier to rest on Wednesday, the family expressed appreciation for the community support they’ve received thus far.

They also reflected on the fun-filled life Xavier lived.

“He was always a goofball. Always making faces always trying to make people smile and laugh… he was loved by so many people,” said McGill.

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The family has created a GoFundMe to cover funeral expenses.

You can find the GoFundMe page here. 


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