October 9, 2015

Flu story featuring Caroline

My daughter, Caroline, was a very active, physically fit and healthy 5-year-old. She swam several times a week and participated in weekly gymnastics lessons.

On December 18, 2012, she came home from school with the sniffles and a mild cough. Caroline has mild asthma and occasionally uses a nebulizer, but as the evening progressed, her breathing became more labored than usual and we decided to contact her pediatrician. After consulting with her pediatrician a few times, Caroline’s conditioned continued to worsen so we took her to a local hospital.

At the local hospital, she was diagnosed with influenza A and double pneumonia, and placed on oxygen as doctors monitored her breathing. After seeing no improvement, she was moved to a second hospital with a dedicated pediatric unit. While there, she slipped further into life-threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome. She was then airlifted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Caroline was fighting flu, pneumonia, severe sepsis, septic shock, hypoxemia, and impending cardio-respiratory failure. For two long weeks, she remained in the CHOP Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in a drug-induced coma, intubated, and on an oscillating ventilator to support her severely damaged lungs.

Between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, my daughter’s condition finally started to take a clear turn for the better: her lungs, kidneys, and heart all showed improvement. Her breathing improved and she was finally removed from the respirator and taken off the paralytics. On December 30, she spoke for the first time in two weeks: she wanted a soft pretzel and a Popsicle. I never imagined a request for snacks would bring my family so much joy. We were able to leave CHOP a week later.

Caroline had been vaccinated against the flu every year except this particular year because it wasn’t available before the start of school—and then things got busy. The fact that we neglected to make it a priority was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made as a parent. I still can’t believe I almost lost my daughter to flu and it could have been prevented through vaccination. To all parents: please make sure everyone in your family age 6 months and older gets their annual flu vaccine.

Jennifer Pool Miller
Mother of Caroline
Westfield, NJ

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