Flu Blinds Unvaccinated 4-Year-Old & Her Parents Want Others To Know Their Mistake


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The family of a 4-year-old girl from Iowa City, Iowa, is desperately praying for her recovery, after she contracted a severe strain of the flu. Jade DeLucia came down with the flu shortly before Christmas last month -- and the virus quickly took its toll, according to CNN. For weeks, Jade bravely battled for her life in the intensive care unit, and survived. But doctors say the virus has since robbed her of a precious gift: her eyesight.

  • It all started on December 19 when Jade's mother, Amanda Phillips, noticed that her normally bubbly daughter seemed off.

    Speaking with CNN, the mom recalled the first few signs that something was not right.

    "She'd say, 'Mom, I don't feel good,' and we'd cuddle on the couch," Phillips remembered. Then came a low-grade fever, which the mom treated with medication. 

    To Phillips, that seemed to do the trick -- at first.

    "She was running around, having fun, eating normally, asking for snacks," the mom recalled. "It was just -- it's a little bug, she'll get over it.There wasn't any sign that would've told me that something was seriously wrong with her."

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  • But on December 23, things took a turn for the worse. 

    Phillips was working her shift at Dollar General while Jade was put to bed by her father, Stephen DeLucia. When the family woke up the next morning, they had plans to head over to Phillips' parents' home. But as the hours passed, Jade still hadn't woken. 

    When the parents went to check on the little girl, she was unresponsive and her body was hot to the touch. Phillips said she immediately knew something was very, very wrong.

    "I yelled at [Jade's father]," she told CNN. "I was like, 'We have to go. We have to go to the emergency room. This isn't right. Something's not right with her.'"

    When they finally arrived at Covenant Medical Center, Jade's body began shaking uncontrollably -- she was having a seizure. 

  • Doctors said Jade needed to go to a different facility, and with no time to spare, she was taken via helicopter to the University of Iowa.

    The children's hospital at the University of Iowa was 80 miles away from where the family lives. 

    "I didn't think I was going to see her again at that point," Phillips recalled. "I really didn't. Just from looking at her, I really honestly didn't think I was going to see her."

    For a while, it seemed like Phillips' first instinct was right. On Christmas Day, the family learned that Jade's flu had infected her brain -- a rare complication of the virus known as encephalopathy.

    When doctors shared the little girl's MRI results, her brain was "lit up like a Christmas tree," Phillips described. 

    "They said she had significant brain damage," she continued. "They said our child might not ever wake up, and if she did, she might not ever be the same."

    For the next few days, Jade was unresponsive, but on December 31, her parents were finally given some answers. A pediatric neurologist diagnosed Jade with acute necrotizing encephalopathy, or ANE, a type of encephalopathy usually caused by a viral infection.

    The diagnosis may have offered some clarity, but in the end, it only added to their worries. ANE is so rare that few studies exist of just how much the illness affects small kids. In one of the few studies her doctor could find, four children with the condition were studied -- and three of them died.

  • Jade's doctors immediately prescribed steroids to help the swelling in her brain. And on New Year's Day, a miracle came: Jade finally opened her eyes.

    Phillips remembered the exact moment it happened.

    "She's got her eyes open," she told CNN. "She's looking around. We got a couple of hand squeezes! And then we got a smile!" 

    It was the beginning of Jade's recovery. Doctors took out her breathing tube, and slowly but surely, she was able to sit up, eat, and request chocolate pudding.

  • On January 5, her mother shared on Facebook that after weeks of silence, she was finally able to hear her daughter's voice.

    "Jade said, 'Hi mommy' and you guys I’m a mess," the mom wrote in her post.

    However, the celebration soon came to an end when it was clear the flu had taken a terrible toll on Jade. Phillips first noticed it when she held up her daughter's favorite stuffed animal and got no response. When Phillips threw a ball in the air, her daughter also didn't seem to notice. After examining her eyes, Jade's doctor said they worked just fine -- it was her brain that was affecting Jade's ability to see.

    "It affected the part of her brain that perceives sight, and we don't know if she's going to get her vision back," Jade's neurologist explained to CNN. "In about three to six months from now we'll know. Whatever recovery she has at six months, that's likely all she's going to get."

    Jade may also have cognitive or developmental problems down the road, but only time will tell.

  • Phillips finally brought her daughter home January 9.

    One of the first things Jade did when she returned home was to touch her sister's face, her mom shared. Then she pulled her close and cried.

    Speaking with CNN, Phillips shared that Jade hadn't received her flu shot before contracting the virus because she'd taken both her daughters for vaccinations in March, and mistakenly thought they were still effective. In truth, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that anyone older than 6 months be vaccinated at the onset of each flu season, which begins in October.

    "We want parents to know they should get a flu shot every season," she told CNN.

    Part of the reason annual vaccinations are so important is because the virus changes from year to year. In fact, this year is slated to be one of the worst flu seasons in decades -- so far 32 children have died from the virus.

    As for Jade, her family has recently started a GoFundMe account to help pay for her medical bills and explained that although the road to her recovery may be long, they are hopeful for the 4-year-old's future.

    "While Jade is currently blind, (but we believe in another miracle of sight!) she smiles, she breathes, she cuddles," neighbor Brandon Weber wrote on the fundraising page. 

    "Her story is one of determination, faith, and the gathering of humanity to seek hope," Weber continued. "Jades story is not over. With your continued support, her parents amazing guidance and love, and our united belief I know Jade is going to impact our world. Bless you for joining her journey."

    The family has raised over $40,000 toward Jade's bills thus far. 

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