Home > Parent Perspective, Preventable Diseases, Testimonials, Vaccine Advocacy > 147 Kids Died From Flu Last Year. My Scarlet Was One of Them.

147 Kids Died From Flu Last Year. My Scarlet Was One of Them.

Rebecca Hendricks, Every Child By Two‘s newest parent advocate, decided to share this guest post on Shot of Prevention after connecting with us on our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page.

I never imagined that jumping on Facebook to catch up with friends would have me reliving the worst day of my life.

12336412_1734258090136116_829364839_nMy five-year old daughter, Scarlet Anne Taylor, died as a result of influenza last season.

She was the first child out of 147 who would die from flu in the 2014-2015 season.  She passed away on December 19, 2014, in Tacoma, WA, just 48 hours after the onset of symptoms and within 4 hours of when she arrived at the hospital.

It all happened so quickly that I still struggle with the reality of it all.  One day she was sent home from school with a fever, the next day she was pronounced dead before we even knew the cause.  It wasn’t until I received a call from the medical examiner a week and a half later that I would come to learn that my daughter had died from influenza (H3N2).

I was on Facebook back in October when I saw this chilling post on Every Child By Two‘s  Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page.

Last week marked the official end of the 2014-2015 flu season. Sadly, the season was marked by 146 pediatric deaths. Of those 146 children, we know the vaccination status of 123 of them – 14 were ineligible for vaccination due to age, 15 were vaccinated, and 94 were unvaccinated. As we begin the 2015-2016 season, we urge every one to get a flu vaccine. No matter what your age, the flu can be dangerous and even deadly. A flu vaccine is your best defense. 

(Sadly, another death was reported to the CDC  following this post, which brought the total number of children who died in the 2014-2015 season to 147.)  

To be completely honest, prior to Scarlet’s death I was not aware of the dangers of the flu, the symptoms of the flu, or the fact that influenza could be deadly to an otherwise healthy child.  I thought the flu shot was a way for pharmaceutical companies to make money. I thought the vaccine was more likely to give you the flu than prevent it.  I thought the vaccine wasn’t necessary because everyone who got the flu got over it. I thought it was no big deal.

To say I was mistaken is an understatement.  

In the months since Scarlet’s death I can’t help but wish I had known more.  If only I had identified her symptoms as influenza sooner.  If only I had known how dangerous the flu could be.  If only I had gotten my family vaccinated.  Is it possible that I could have done something that may have saved her life?

12285905_1734258000136125_398305480_nAs I approach the anniversary of Scarlet’s death, I think of the sweet, beautiful and vibrant child that once graced this earth.  Only a parent understands the absolute love you have for your child and the monumental desire that roars like an open fire inside you to protect them at all costs.

I still feel her presence everywhere, but mourn the fact that I can no longer see her.  Touch her.  Or protect her.

Whatever you imagine it might be like to have your child die, multiply that a zillion times, and you’re still not even close. The medical examiner should have written a death certificate for me as well, because when Scarlet died, a part of me died too.

I almost feel like less of a mom now. Or just not entirely whole anymore. Incomplete.

The shape of my family has changed. It’s been almost a year since Scarlet left us and yet I still find myself questioning how I’m supposed to respond when people ask me how many children I have.  I have 3 kids now. But I had four.

Just a few weeks ago, we went to a restaurant and I ordered four kid’s meals. Then it suddenly occurred to me…

Scarlet is gone. How could I forget that? Everyday my heart is heavy with grief and pain.  How could I forget she’s gone?  

On another occasion some friends stopped by.  The kids were playing and the adults were chatting, and I found myself looking for Scarlet.  She wasn’t in the living room with us so I started looking around, assuming she was getting into something she shouldn’t. Then I caught myself.

She was such a presence in our home, it is quite obvious she isn’t here.  So, how is it that I keep forgetting?

12312381_1734258116802780_1635878537_nEvery day since her passing I try to accept the fact that my beautiful Scarlet is gone.  My mind is consumed with her memory, and yet I so often forget that she’s no longer here with us.  My focus shifts back and forth between the grief I have, and the gift I had.

I am overwhelmed by sorrow, loss and a sense of what might have been, while at the same time I’m struck by the joy and richness my princess brought into the world. I feel the deepest, most aching pain. Yet I long to celebrate Scarlet’s brief, brilliant time on this planet.

The moment to moment tension…the never ending whiplash to and fro between these emotions…the grief and the gift.  It drives me absolutely mad!

But in the months following her death, I’ve started to see the path that is laid out before me.

Following a local media interview on KOMO 4 News in Seattle, people who had heard Scarlet’s story began sending me heart-felt messages.  They explained how her story touched them and led them to seek the care they needed for their loved ones.  Some talked about getting diagnosed for flu, others talked about getting vaccinated.  All the messages touched me deeply and soon became a life boat to keep me from drowning in grief.

One reader claimed:

“It was because of your bravery sharing the story of Scarlet. She is the reason I took my daughter to the hospital that night of January 12th just shortly after I saw you on the news. You saved my daughter’s life. She had H3N2 also. She was hospitalized and stayed for almost a week. I wasn’t going to take my daughter, I thought she just had a cold.”

Stephanie L. wrote:

 “Because of your story my entire family got flu shots – 28 of us in total ranging in ages from 67 to unborn (I was pregnant).”

A nurse from Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, where Scarlet was treated, wrote to say,

“Scarlet’s story changed this city. She touched everyone who heard the story. Tacoma will never forget who Scarlet is.

It saddens me to know that there were 146 other children who died of flu last season, and 146 other families who are grieving just like me.

My first response when I noted the number of childhood deaths last season was shock and disbelief.

Is that all? My Scarlet was one of just 147? How unlucky!  

And then it occurred to me that numbers like these may be why people don’t think it can happen to them.  Like me, they don’t take precautions because the threat doesn’t seem real.  But I’m here to tell you if it could happen to me, it could happen to you.  And if I had the chance, I would do anything and everything I could to prevent what happened to Scarlet from happening again.

Today, I’m sharing Scarlet’s story in hopes of reducing the number of childhood deaths from flu, but also in hopes of reducing the hundreds of thousands of people of all ages who suffer, are hospitalized and die as a result of influenza each year.

Scarlet will always be one of the many faces of the flu.  But my goal is prevent others from being the new faces of flu.  I want people to realize that the flu is dangerous for people of all ages; even those who are otherwise healthy.  I want people to recognize the symptoms of the flu, so that they can be sure to seek proper medical attention if their loved one needs it.  I also want people to do their best to protect themselves and others from flu by staying home when they are sick, and getting their annual flu vaccination each season.

I want to make sure that Scarlet’s life – and death –  made an impression on this world.  It may not be an easy task.  And it won’t happen overnight.  It’s already been life-changing for me, but now I’m asking for your help in making sure it’s life-saving for others.   Please do everything possible to protect yourself and the ones you love from being another face of the flu.

Sincerely, Rebecca Hendricks

For more information regarding seasonal influenza and the vaccines to help prevent it, visit Every Child By Two’s new Vaccinate Your Family website which includes up to date seasonal flu information.

 

 

 

 

  1. Carl
    December 7, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Some kinds of dangers tend to make headlines and others do not. Influenza is, for whatever reason, one of the deadly things we don’t see enough warnings about on the front page of our newspapers. We need more people to spread this information.

    Like

  2. reissd
    December 7, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    I am so, so sorry. This is heartbreaking.

    Like

  3. Katie
    December 7, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing your daughter’s story, you are saving the lives of others even through your grief. I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet girl.

    Like

  4. Krista
    December 8, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I’m so sorry you have had to endure this pain. I can’t even begin to imagine what you have and are still going through. What a beautiful little girl.

    Like

  5. Erica
    December 8, 2015 at 1:18 am

    My niece died a one day before your daughter she would have been 4 on the day your beautiful little girl passed the coroner put natural cause once the host dies so does the virus her spleen was inflamed we just didn’t know… I can only imagine how devastated you and your family are. I would really like to hopefully get in contact with you don’t mind. Its been a real struggle and I think it would be good for my brother and his wife its a lonely road. To have support from someone who knows the pain would be amazing.

    Like

  6. elizabeth vasquez
    December 8, 2015 at 2:09 am

    I am so sorry for your loss. God bless you and give you strength to go on.

    Like

  7. Rebecca Hendricks
    December 8, 2015 at 2:35 am

    Thank you everyone for your kind comments.
    #fighttheflu

    Erica, please find me on facebook. Id love to chat.

    Like

  8. December 8, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    What a tragic and heartbreaking story. I’ve taken care of patients who had suffered and died from the flu. It’s absolutely devastating, especially in children. I hope that your story has the ability to convince and educate parents to get the influenza vacine for their children to prevent further heartache.

    Like

  9. Chris
    December 8, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you for your story. Her loss must have put a large hole in your heart, let us hope your story prevents that kind of loss in other families.

    Like

  10. Krystyne Healy
    December 8, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. This is so heart breaking. I always get myself, my family and children vaccinated. I know a lot of people don’t and it’s sad. Once again, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Like

  11. Don Pfau
    December 8, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    I am sorry for your loss and loss of a child is tough on everyone. However, I do not agree with your stance of getting the flu shot. ESPECIALLY for pregnant women in which it DIRECTLY SAYS in the package insert it has NOT been tested on pregnant women. Terrible advice! Furthermore, the flu shot is actually illegal since a vaccine must pass TWO double blind, placebo studies which can take at least two years, to be approved. How is it ready every year? Or did they study and predict it two years ago? See the link below from the attorney regarding the legality of the flu shot. I do have a question. Did the hospital or you administer acetominophen? When you are sick, and you take tylenol (an NSAID) one of the side effects is liver and/or kidney failure. So, I would look into this because the only way the flu can kill you is if your immune system is weak. However an NSAID can do this. There are two categories of people that have weak immune systems: the very young (theirs isn’t developed yet) and the elderly. This is in the Merck Manual. I would look into the hospital records to see if tylenol was administered. Yes, even children’s tylenol.
    http://ep.yimg.com/ty/cdn/realityzone/NTKlegalArgumentsVaccines.html

    Like

  12. reissd
    December 8, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    A. Re pregnant women: There have been many studies of the vaccine in pregnant women. Most recently: Legge, Alexandra, et al, Rates and determinants of seasonal influenza vaccination in pregnancy and association with neonatal outcomes, CMAJ January 6, 2014, http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2014/01/06/cmaj.130499. Siri E. Håberg, et al, Risk of Fetal Death after Pandemic Influenza Virus Infection or Vaccination 368 N Engl J Med 333 (2013), http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1207210 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25758932. It has an excellent safety record.

    B. You are right that an annual vaccine cannot be tested the same way others are – but the influenza vaccine uses a formula in which the only thing that changes are the strains we protect against, and that has been extensively studied and monitored, and is how we know it’s safe. It’s approved by the FDA and licensed (a new vaccine – new formula – was just licensed). Nothing illegal there.

    C. The comment about Tylenol reads a lot like blaming the victim. Tylenol is not an NSAID. Ibuprofen is, but not Tylenol. Influenza killed this child. Period. Influenza kills thousands or tens of thousands each year in the U.S..

    Like

  13. Lawrence
    December 8, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Don – you’ve been schooled…take your victim blaming somewhere else.

    Like

  14. Jamie D.
    December 9, 2015 at 12:23 am

    I feel very bad for Scarlet. I also feel very bad for Ayzlee McCarthy, who got the flu shot and died: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/health/2015/01/02/flu-deaths-iowa-young-girl-dies/21214315/

    And Kiera Driscoll, age 5, who also got the flu shot. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/year-girl-dies-catching-flu-vaccine/story?id=28526729

    How many of the 147 had the flu shot? For those who didn’t, would they have been protected with a shot last year that had a slightly higher than 20% efficacy with even the most generous of estimates?

    Like

  15. Jamie D.
    December 9, 2015 at 12:24 am

    To be clear, they got the flu shot, but still died from the flu. Even the strains they were vaccinated against.

    Like

  16. Gray Falcon
    December 9, 2015 at 12:26 am

    Jamie D: How many people drive sober, but still get in car accidents? If not drinking when driving isn’t a perfect solution, why should we worry when people drink and drive?

    Like

  17. December 9, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Jamie D – the annual shot don’t cove all flu’s – just the ones they can – seat belts don’t save all accident victims either – still no reason not to use them.

    Like

  18. Lawrence
    December 9, 2015 at 7:42 am

    More victim blaming, Jamie? What a heartless person you are…..

    Like

  19. jgc56
    December 9, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Jamie, thank you for demonstrating the obvious–that it would be great if we could develop better seasonal flu vaccines than we are currently are capable of with existing technology.

    If instead you’re trying to suggest that annual flu vaccines–even ones that are not as effective as we would like–are without benefit, you’ve failed miserably (at least in any universe where 20% is greater than 0%).

    Like

  20. Heather Vee
    December 9, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Rebecca, and helping others learn about the dangers of the flu. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Like

  21. reissd
    December 9, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    @Jamie D.: “How many of the 147 had the flu shot? For those who didn’t, would they have been protected with a shot last year that had a slightly higher than 20% efficacy with even the most generous of estimates?”

    The article actually addressed that. To quote: “Of those 146 children, we know the vaccination status of 123 of them – 14 were ineligible for vaccination due to age, 15 were vaccinated, and 94 were unvaccinated. ”

    In other words, most of the deaths were in unvaccinated children.

    Like

  22. Chris
    December 9, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Jamie D: “How many of the 147 had the flu shot?”

    The answer to that was near the beginning of the article, the only thing you seem to be proving is that you will not or just cannot read what is written on this page. Plus you are invoking the Nirvana Fallacy. Shame on you.

    Like

  23. Meridith Yeoma
    December 10, 2015 at 12:50 am

    Thank you for bravely sharing your story, I am very sorry for your loss.

    Like

  24. dingo199
    December 10, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Blessings for you and your family, Rebecca.
    Sweet dreams Scarlet, you will never be forgotten.

    Like

  25. December 10, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Rebecca, thank you for sharing you story. You are so brave! Just to let you know, the was reposted on Shotbyshot.org and well has received over 9,000 views with many shares. Scarlet’s memory will continue to touch many people.

    Like

  26. December 11, 2015 at 9:52 am

    God bless you and your family and all that read this I am so sorry but know your daughter is with god looking all around smiling saying my MOMMA is helping save many many other. Ty for sharing bless you….

    Like

  27. December 18, 2015 at 6:55 am

    Thank you for sharing your story and I hope that this will go as a warning for parents and people alike that they shouldn’t take flu symptoms lightly.

    Like

  28. Shoshli
    December 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    I really feel for your loss..but i think that if you check really careful..it could well have that your daughter had fever and fief of some kind of food poisoning or something else deadly and then the doctors jumped on the opportunity to blame it on flu so as to make the world make believe that flu vaccines ate essential!! Another lie from the new world order! part of population decrease through vaccines!

    Like

  29. December 27, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    What everyone should be outraged at is the fact that high dose vit C therapy cures all influenza strains in a matter of days. Not one single person should be dying of any strain of flu because this cheap and 100% effective treatment is out there. Unfortunately there isnt the profit in vit c therapy that there is in vaccines that dont work.

    Like

  30. Mary
    December 27, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Your a strong women and I think it’s wonder how you’ve gotten your story out and how you went on but will never stop the fight for this your such a wonderful mom to all of your children

    Like

  31. Lawrence
    December 27, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    OMG, the last two commenters are victim blaming….what monsters.

    Like

  32. Steven
    December 29, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    OMG? Are you 13 years old?

    Like

  33. Gray Falcon
    December 30, 2015 at 9:33 am

    @Steven- One person tries to diagnose someone she never sees, another recommends a therapy that has no evidence that it doesn’t work, and you focus on someone saying “OMG”? Are you a sociopath?

    Like

  34. Steven
    December 30, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    @Gray Falcon
    OMG, are you comment blaming me? What a monster you are.

    Like

  35. Chris
    December 30, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Steven, why is a good thing to blame a victim for their disease?

    Like

  36. Gray Falcon
    December 31, 2015 at 9:48 am

    @Steven- “Comment blaming”? What was that word salad supposed to mean?

    Like

  37. melissa131
    January 1, 2016 at 2:55 am

    This is so hard to read because it reminds me of what we went through with my 10 year old in 2009. My son was hospitalized at Mary Bridge Hospital as well with H1N1 during that years flu pandemic and he stayed for a total of 45 days. We were so close to losing him at one point. He wasn’t vaccinated for flu at the time, because I had listened to the misinformed and didn’t think the flu was a big deal. Thank you so much for courageously sharing your story. I make sure to share our story with everyone I know. It’s my hope as well that people, especially parents know that they CAN do something to lessen their chances of influenza and that influenza virus CAN be deadly. We get our flu shots every year now as a family. I am so very very sorry for your loss and I am so glad that you are speaking up on this issue.

    Like

  38. jgc56
    January 5, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Lissa, where can I found the clinical evidence demonstrating high dose vitamin C therapy is capable of curing all influenza infections in a matter of days?

    I mean, it does actually exist–right?.

    Like

  39. Tiffany Rather
    February 4, 2017 at 12:41 am

    I lost my 5 yr old daughter in 2005 from the flu as well. After all of this time it is still hard to believe. I haven’t met anyone thatbhas been what l went through. Our stories are very similar. You will be in my thoughts and prayers

    Like

  1. December 8, 2015 at 12:23 pm
  2. December 9, 2015 at 11:26 pm
  3. December 11, 2015 at 1:04 pm
  4. December 12, 2015 at 10:22 am
  5. December 31, 2015 at 2:44 pm
  6. May 18, 2017 at 11:19 am

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