I Lost My 20 Year Old Child to Flu. Don’t Think It Can’t Happen to You.
Losing your 20 year old healthy child to flu is something no parent ever expects to happen.
by Franki Andersen
Seven months ago, I lost my beautiful daughter, Brittany Danielle Andersen, at the age of 20. I’m sharing her story so that parents and young adults will know that the flu doesn’t just take young kids and old people. It takes whomever it wants at any age.
As a mother, there is nothing worse than seeing your child sick and hospitalized. When Britt was young she loved to sing, dance, play on her swing set and dress up. But we had a few medical scares in those early years. In fact, she was on life support four times between the ages of 18 months and 6 years due to repeated bouts of strep throat that would effect her lungs. But then, after a surgery to remove her tonsils and adnoids, she never got sick again, and I was grateful that those hospital days were behind us.
That was, until she fell ill with influenza A earlier this year.
It was a Thursday, March 24th and she said her throat was itchy so she picked up some TheraFlu before I dropped her at her dads’ house. I talked to her later that evening to see how she was feeling, and I could hear how the sore throat had altered her voice. But she said that she was fine.
The next day, her father dropped her off before work. She stood in the doorway for a minute and when I asked her if she was coming in, her reply was “I don’t quite feel like myself”.
I asked her if she had breakfast and she said no, so she had some toast and juice before going to lie down. I propped her up with some pillows so she was sitting upright on her bed and about fifteen minutes later I checked in on her and asked how she was. Her reply was simply “Ok” but that obviously wasn’t true because those were the last words she ever said to me.
Around 11:45, I heard a weird rattle coming from her room. I went in and found her lying on her back. When I tried to wake her, I noticed white saliva coming out of her mouth. I called 911, and when they got there, they could not get a pulse. They worked on her for what seemed like eternity and then put her in the ambulance. I followed the ambulance to the hospital and at 2pm they told us they got a pulse back.
What a relief, I thought and collapsed into a chair.
They then life-flighted her to Sioux Falls, SD. When I arrived there the head nurse and lung doctor told me that she was not stabilizing. They had maxed out all the blood pressure meds they could give, and nothing was working. They said the word septis, which I was unfamiliar with at the time, and they told me I would need to “make a decision”.
At 6:30 am on Saturday, March 26th, 2016 I made that decision and my daughter was taken off of life support.
Her heart had been the only thing going. They stopped working on her after she went into cardiac arrest twice within a few minutes. So, officially she died at the hospital, but all her organs had already shut down at home, which is what we suspect was the sound of the rattle that we heard.
Influenza A had taken her so quickly, but not entirely quietly.
Brittany had only complained of a sore throat, nothing else. She didn’t have a temperature. I had no idea that her body was fighting so hard before it was too late and she was gone.
Grieving over the loss of your child is something no one ever expects to happen.
To me, my daughter was a saint. She didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs. She was waiting for the perfect person to give herself to. She enjoyed singing in the choir, writing songs and chatting with friends. But she wasn’t just my daughter. She was my best friend and my business partner too. In her short twenty years here on earth, she accomplished quite a bit and made special connections with people everywhere she went.
Sadly, Britt would never get the chance to fulfill all her dreams, because influenza took all that from her.
I can only hope that in sharing the story of her untimely death that I can help her continue to make a difference here on Earth by saving the lives of others.
So, for Britt I say, please GET VACCINATED!
Get yourself vaccinated. Get your kids vaccinated. Get your family vaccinated.
And please, help support flu vaccination in your community. You can join me the third weekend of September every year at the Arnolds Park Amusement Park, in Arnolds Park, IA, where I have organized a Memorial/Flu Awareness Walk in her honor. It is called Blaze It Forward and donations received through events I organize and items I sell help the Lakes Regional Healthcare Foundation give shots to those who can’t afford them.