Obituary: Alexis Echavarria

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Alexis Echavarria, 16, a film student at Idyllwild Arts Academy, who was recognized by faculty as one of their most promising film makers, died very suddenly and without warning in the early morning of Thursday, Aug. 4 at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. He had just returned from serving a four-week stint as a community service volunteer in Thailand, aiding — among other responsibilities — tsunami-affected children, their families, and helping to rebuild a devastated infrastructure.

According to his parents, Tony and Christina Echavarria, Alexis had boarded the plane in Bangkok with a fever. With changes in Seoul and Tokyo, the flight lasted about 22 hours. On arriving home, he complained of stiff muscles but according to his father, was in a fine mood and on an emotional high because of how meaningful his volunteer work had been for him.

His parents took him to the doctor on Tuesday, Aug. 2 for what did not appear to be extraordinary symptoms. By Wednesday he was admitted to Saint John’s for treatment for dehydration and was preliminarily diagnosed with harm to his kidneys.

Later on Wednesday, the hospital did more routine tests with results to be reported when available. Wednesday night, his parents said goodnight to Alexis at around 11:30, unaware that his condition was acutely serious or life-threatening.

At 3:30 a.m., Alexis’ father received a call that his son was in trouble. On the way to the hospital, the hospital called his cell phone and informed him that Alexis had died from a heart attack likely prompted by kidney failure and flooding of the lungs.

Idyllwild Arts Headmaster Bill Lowman, students and faculty were devastated at Alexis’ death, especially inasmuch as it was totally unexpected. Working together in growing artistic abilities creates strong bonds among the students and faculty at Idyllwild Arts.

Lowman spoke for all in saying, “All of us are shocked and saddened by the tragic passing of this extraordinary young man. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family” he said.

In an interview with his parents, Christina and Tony both seemed extraordinarily at peace, grateful that he had made it home from Thailand and that his two trips volunteering among Thailand’s poor had awakened in him a profoundly deep spirituality and sense of his life’s mission.

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