August 29, 2019

Portrait of Jessica smiling

During January 2002, 4½-year-old Jessica Stein and her brother, Eric, caught a virus that was going around their preschool. Like many of their fellow classmates and even some teachers, Jessica and Eric missed a few days of school, but recovered shortly thereafter.

By the end of the month, Jessica had completely resumed her daily activities. She attended a birthday party and played with her friends at a local park. She had begun napping in the afternoons, which was unusual for her, but otherwise appeared healthy and happy.

On that Wednesday evening following the birthday party, Jessica developed a mild fever and began vomiting. Her parents kept her home from school the next day. When they contacted her doctor’s office, the nurse said Jessica had likely suffered a relapse from her previous illness, but she did not need to see the doctor. By that Friday, her fever began to subside and she somewhat regained her appetite, although she was still weak, very tired, and fussy. Her breathing became labored that night and her hands and feet were cold. Jessica’s parents contacted her doctor again, and he advised them to bring her to the emergency room in case she had become dehydrated and required an IV.

The doctors ran various tests on Jessica, and a pediatric cardiologist was called. After several hours, they determined her heart was a little enlarged, but it beat strongly. Jessica’s parents were to be allowed back into the examination room to see her. Five minutes later, Jessica’s heart stopped beating. Doctors attempted to revive her, but were unsuccessful.

On February 2, 2002, Jessica died of viral myocarditis. An autopsy was not conducted to determine what type of virus caused Jessica’s ultimate death; however, viral myocarditis is linked to Coxsackie B and adenoviruses and can also result from the flu.

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