Family remembers Virginia teen who died from an allergic reaction to nuts

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A Roanoke family is grieving the tragic loss of a 17-year-old William Byrd senior who died suddenly three weeks ago after an allergic reaction. Brandon Cheatham's family is holding on to all they have left.

The 17-year-old's heartbeat now only heard from a stuffed animal.

"He was definitely one of the best people I've ever met, I mean always wanting to do something for others instead of himself, he constantly had a smile on his face," Jacklynne Goyne, one of Cheatham's best friends, said.

The family gathered Sunday to share stories of the teen who they say brightened a room.

"Kind of on the wild side but he had a good personality, caring, loved his hockey, never played but loved going to the hockey games, spending time with friends and his hockey family," Alex Perdue, Cheatham's uncle said.

But that was all taken from the William Byrd High School senior when he took a bite out of a brownie. A family friend brought them over as Cheatham's grandmother was dying.

"With everything going on with our family, with our grandmother, it's one of those things you don't think about it, you're so used to people knowing about the allergies that if somebody brings something in that didn't know about it, that, it's the least thing on your mind when you got so much going on," Perdue added.

He didn't know the brownies had ground walnuts in them. Just a few minutes later, he experienced an allergic reaction that killed him.

His family has spent the last three weeks mulling over what ifs.

"A lot of anger comes out because you think, why did he not ask, or why was it brought in the house," Perdue added.

The family wants to be sure no one else has to go through this. They say people should bring labeled food instead of home-cooked food to a house when one of the members has food allergies.

Cheatam also didn't have an EpiPen on him. By the time the family got a hold of one from a neighbor, it was too late.

"Something needs to be done to make sure EpiPens are readily available, out in public," Perdue said.

"I wouldn't wish this pain on anybody," Goyne added.

It's a pain that will last but so will Cheatham thanks to a tattoo in his memory, which now printed on his loved ones.

"It's been hard," Kenneth Blankenship, another best friend of Cheatham's said.

Best friend Tanner Pruzan echoed, "It's been hard, it's been boring, not really much to do, there's not that text every morning, 'hey, what're you doing today?'"

But they're staying strong knowing he graduated. While he was brain dead, his family, friends and the school community all gathered around his hospital bed and held a graduation ceremony for him.