Parents speak about their 4-year-old son who died from the flu
DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - Four-year-old Jonah Rieben's parents talked publicly about their son's death Thursday after he died from the flu last week.
Jonah was adopted from Bulgaria in February 2017, and his death marked the first pediatric flu related death in the state this flu season.
"The beloved baby of the family, Jonah, affectionately known as Jonah B, brought love, light and laughter to all who knew him," Richard Rieben said.
Jonah's parents Richard and Valerie Rieben said their adopted son could light up a room with his smile and giggle.
"A brave warrior who fought and overcame many difficult battles throughout his life, Jonah inspired us all with his strength and resilience," Richard said.
Jonah was one of 17 kids. Fourteen members of the family, including him, were adopted from Bulgaria, Ukraine and Uzbekistan
His parents said he was a fragile child with a heart problem. and he'd been malnourished.
They were with him when he died Saturday.
"His passing was expectant and his decline was rapid," Richard said. "The period from the initial on set of symptoms to his alternate passing was only a few hours."
"One of he most difficult things that I've ever had to do was tell my other children on Saturday morning that their little brother wasn't coming home," Valerie said. "It was absolutely heartbreaking. As much as we're going to miss our baby, I have great peace in feeling his mission here was complete. He moved on to the next phase of his existence and he's in a good place."
"Jonah's legacy will be to raise awareness and advocate for other children who are waiting for the love and care of a forever family, bBoth in the United States and abroad," Richard. said.
"The absolute joy that Jonah brought into our lives, that all of our children bring into our lives makes any sorrow that comes along with it worth it," he continued. "Difficult but worth it."
Richard and Valerie believe all children deserve to have a family where they're loved and cared for, which is why they've adopted so many children.
They said another one of their sons, who's in the hospital with the flu now, also has underlying medical issues. He is in stable condition.