Washington mom warns of flu danger after daughter’s death

TACOMA, Wash. (KCPQ/CNN) – Flu season is about to peak in some parts of the country, but there’s still time to get some protection with a flu shot. One Washington mother shares her story of how fast the disease can kill a loved one.

This time of year is about looking back for mom Rebecca Hendricks. “January comes and it’s like the peak of the season is coming,” she said. “She was a singer and a dancer and a little diva.”

Pictures of her 5-year-old daughter Scarlet are displayed all over the house.

“I was kind of hearing a little bit about the flu on the news and stuff, but I didn’t really pay attention to it,” Rebecca explained.

Four years ago, Rebecca got a call to come pick up Scarlet from school. “She had a pretty high fever, it was 103. Brought her home and gave her some Tylenol and stuck her on the couch with some tea and put a movie on.”

The next day, they went about errands like normal. “It’s amazing how strong kids can be or present themselves to be,” Rebecca said.

Scarlet’s fever seemed to taper with more medicine, but after a nap on the couch: “She fell asleep really fast, and she started making this really strange breathing noise. She just kind of opened her eyes but she looked past me, like through me and I was terrified. I just said, ‘Whoa, I have to take you to the hospital.’”

Within hours of arriving at the hospital: “When I walked in there I thought I was GONNA walk out with some medicine, I had no idea that I was going to walk out without her. She died from respiratory failure caused by the H3N2 flu.”

Flu activity in Washington State has already started to peak, and doctors say they’re seeing an increase in patients presenting with symptoms.

Dr. John Lynch said, “Started probably trickles of one to 2 cases, now we’re seeing five to six cases per day in the emergency department.”

Dr. Lynch said about one in three people get the flu vaccine and it’s not too late to get your flu shot with our peak season just around the corner. “It takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to kick in, provide some protection,” he explained. “We’re still early in the season, but we’re probably looking at a peak in the next two to three weeks.”

He said older adults and children who have severe symptoms like a high fever should be brought in to the hospital. Something Rebecca said to not ignore. “Don’t be worried about being over-reactive, I mean you’re talking about life and death.”

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