Kalamazoo high school senior who died of COVID-19 remembered for love of dancing, laughter and family


KALAMAZOO, MI — Taigan Bradford’s mother initially thought nothing of her daughter’s stuffy nose and sore throat in November.

Within a week, Omeka Bradford would be calling an ambulance to rush her 17-year-old daughter to the hospital.

Taigan, a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School, died Tuesday, Jan. 11, after a nearly two-month fight against COVID-19, her mother said in an interview with MLive.

The high school student, known for her boisterous laugh, dance moves and funny TikTok videos, tested positive for the illness the week prior to Thanksgiving. After initially experiencing a stuffed nose and cough, Taigan would later develop severe body aches, headache, nausea and weakness, her mother said.

“She came out of her room and said she couldn’t breathe,” Bradford said.

Taigan was admitted to Bronson Methodist Hospital on Nov. 26, where she was moved to the intensive care unit. After experiencing her own symptoms and testing positive, Omeka had to leave to her daughter’s bedside for 15 days to quarantine.

When she returned on Dec. 12, Taigan was being transferred by helicopter to Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

At Mott, Taigan was put in a coma while machines helped her breathe, her mother said. Days passed and Taigan appeared to be improving. After coming off of sedation, she was awake and able to mouth the words “I love you” to her mother. She listened to gospel music and watched her favorite TikToks.

“She was starting to do better,” Omeka said. “I don’t know what happened.”

The teenager’s health took a downward turn and, on Tuesday, her mother was called around 6:30 p.m. to return to the hospital, where she arrived to see teams of doctors attempting to revive her daughter.

“It was a room full of people taking turns,” she said, pausing as she began to cry. “They lost her.”

While at Mott, the 17-year-old was kept in a room behind glass and her family could only communicate with her using a walkie-talkie. But after testing negative Tuesday morning, Taigan was about to be cleared for visitors. Nurses told her mother that Taigan was even trying to sit up on her own.

“I said that girl is strong, she’s a fighter,” Bradford said.

As funeral arrangements are being prepared, the teen’s mother said she is urging school leaders to close district buildings and return to synchronous virtual learning, like they did in the 2020-21 school year.

She believes her daughter caught COVID-19 at school.

Her daughter told her frequently about other students not wearing their masks properly in school or on the bus. Bradford believes the schools cannot keep up on the number of positive cases and properly keep buildings clean.

The district was closed for the entire 2020-21 school year, but returned to in-person learning this fall. Masks are required for all students and staff while in buildings and on the bus. According to the district dashboard, KPS has reported 170 cases among students since returning from winter break Monday, Jan. 3.

Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri said in a statement provided to MLive that the district has been in contact with the family to extend their condolences.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Kalamazoo Central senior Taigan Bradford,” Raichoudhuri said.

The high schooler was excited to take her driver’s test and finally be able to drive without her mother in the car, her mother said. She was just a few months away from graduating.

“She was waiting on that graduation and walking that stage,” her mother said.

Taigan had plans to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College, for nursing, after high school. She also hoped to move to Texas — somewhere warm.

Bradford said her daughter was “very silly” and loved her family, dancing, cooking and her goldendoodle, Jersey.

“She had this laugh that — it was so loud,” she said. “It stopped people and people looked. She laughed at everything.”

Bradford said Taigan and the rest of her family had hesitancies about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Seeing others in their family still get sick from the disease despite being vaccinated and stories of people having adverse reactions delayed their decision.

But, after talking with their doctor, Bradford said their family had made up their minds and were planning to get their shots.

Today, Bradford is waiting to be eligible for the vaccine after contracting COVID-19 previously, and her younger daughter is awaiting her second dose.

The grieving mother urges other to take even mild symptoms seriously, and get tested.

Also on MLive:

Michigan COVID data for Thursday, Jan. 13: In nearly 50 counties, tests are 30% positive as omicron completes takeover

Kalamazoo Public Schools buys 200,000 masks for students with federal COVID-19 relief funds

Second of 3 siblings pleads guilty in fatal shooting of two people at Kalamazoo apartment complex



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