Flu Kills 4-Year-Old After Mom Follows Advice of Anti-Vax FB Group Instead of Boy's Doctor

Najee Jackson

Four-year-old Najee Jackson of Pueblo, Colorado, succumbed to a severe case of the flu Wednesday and became the second pediatric death in the state since the flu season began. His death came as a shock to his family, and was quickly held up as yet another heartbreaking example of just how serious a case of influenza can be, particularly on the young and vulnerable. But in the days that followed, another picture began to emerge, when Facebook comments surfaced showing Najee's mother consulting the advice of parents in an anti-vax Facebook group rather than following doctor's orders.

  • According to a GoFundMe page set up for the family, two of Najee's (aka "Junior's") three brothers came down with the flu in late January.

    They were rushed to the hospital with sky-high fevers, explained the page, which is believed to have been written by his mother, whose name has not been released to the public.

    "After being in the ER most of the day, I returned home and prepared dinner for my kids (4 boys total)," the GoFundMe page continued. "Once dinner was finished, I bathed my kids and sent my 5 yr old and Jr (4 yrs old), into their room to put on pajamas."

    At the time, Najee's mother claimed she had no idea that her 4-year-old also had the flu. In fact, she believed he was healthy.

    "Though my other sons tested positive for the flu and although Jr was sick barely sick on sat, he was never tested," she explained.

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  • A few minutes after their bath, the boy's 5-year-old brother came into the room to inform his mother that Najee was "asleep."

    "This was weird to me being as though he had just gotten out of the bath," the mother shared. "I went to check on Jr. and found him lying on the floor and he was pale ... "

    The mother said she immediately called 911 and administered CPR until EMTs took over. She added that according to reports, she passed out, after being overcome with emotion.

    "I was in shock because Najee seemed normal and not in as bad of a condition as his brothers," the mom continued.

    In just a matter of moments, however, she could see clearly that was not the case.

  • The boy was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Colorado Springs, where his mother was given some difficult news.

    "While in the PICU, Jr was swabbed and I was told that he tested positive for both Influenza B, which is what my other 2 boys tested positive for, and also Paraflu as well," she shared.

    But that wasn't all.

    Najee had also suffered an anoxic brain injury following a seizure, which occurs when the brain doesn't receive any oxygen for several minutes, causing cells in the brain tissue to die.

    Such an injury can follow a heart attack, head injury or trauma, drowning, drug overdose, or poisoning, WebMD noted. But according to Najee's mother, doctors believed his was caused by either his fever or from "losing his airway" during the seizure.

    His condition had become so severe, Najee was placed on life support.

  • On GoFundMe, Najee's mother praised her son's doctors and nurses, who gave the family both "hope and encouragement."

    "We know that God has the final say so and we accept his will," she wrote. "Yet, we will still fight for Najee at all cost! ... I have never prayed so hard in my life!"

    She went on to describe her son as a "fighter in every since of the word," as well as a "vibrant little boy that loves cars and playing with his brothers." She also described her family as "forever changed" by the experience, and thanked anyone who was able to contribute to his medical fund.

  • Sadly, little Najee was unable to overcome his injuries. On Wednesday, the 4-year-old was taken off life support and pronounced dead.

    In an update to the GoFundMe page, the mother wrote:

    "I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has donated money for my son Najee! It is my with my deepest sorrow to inform those of you that don’t already know that my son has been taken off of life support and has passed. Myself and all those who love Najee are devastated and broken. I ask that you please continue to pray for me and our family, we truly need it now more than ever!"

  • In the days since his death, however, new reports are calling into question whether everything that could have been done for Najee truly was.

    The Colorado Times Recorder has published a series of comments left by the mother in a Facebook group called Stop Mandatory Vaccination. All of the comments were left in the week leading up to Najee's hospitalization and death.

    "I am in desperate need of help with what to do for my poor kiddos!” a January 31 post began. "My 5-year-old and my 10-month-old [were] both premature babies. They have been tested positive for the flu [and] I am terrified. My 4-year-old had a febrile seizure at only temp of 102. The doc prescribed Tamiflu … I did not pick it up, I am scared and freaking out."

    In a later comment on the thread, the mother clarified that the doctor had prescribed Tamiflu for the entire family after her other two sons were diagnosed. The intention was to prevent the spread of the illness to others in the family, including Najee. She apparently opted against it, preferring instead to "treat" everyone with natural remedies.

  • At the urging of other members in the anti-vax group, it seems the mother was encouraged to go against doctor's orders as well.

    “You’re better off taking Vitamin D and C, Elderberry, Zinc, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables,” one commenter told her -- to which she replied, “Ok perfect I’ll try that."

    But after several days, it becomes clear that the natural remedies aren't working.

    "Any other tips? I'm terrified for another seizure," the mother wrote. "Please no hard comments I am a momma freaking out all alone in this with a family who believes in none natural ways so I'm going through alone and they are making me feel bad for not putting him on Tamiflu."

    To that, she received a bevy of other alternative remedies, including boiling thyme on the stove and giving Vitamin C "until diarrhea."

  • Groups like these are nothing new -- this one boasts more than 178,000 members -- but it is just one of thousands more.

    Many of them rail against vaccinating, claim that doctors treat illnesses with "poison" instead of naturally occurring remedies, and imply that those who follow doctors' orders are somehow being manipulated by the medical community, which is painted as something of a dark force.

    But in the name of "spreading the good word," medical experts say that all these groups succeed in doing is to confuse well-meaning parents with misinformation, and put innocent children -- like Najee -- in harm's way.

  • The 2019-20 flu season is expected to be one of the worst on medical record.

    In fact, it's believed that the common flu poses a greater threat to people in the US this year than the coronavirus -- despite the latter grabbing the majority of headlines lately. 

    "Last year, we had 34,000 deaths from flu," epidemiologist Brandon Brown of the University of California at Riverside recently told NPR. And yes, that's just in the US. According to the latest stats, the flu results in about 12,000 to 61,000 deaths each year in the US -- so this year could certainly bring about more.

  • Even more alarming: Most children who die from the flu did not receive a flu shot prior to falling ill.

    “The majority of the 185 children who died from flu last year did not receive the flu vaccine,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Allison Bartlett told UChicago Medicine in January 2019. “Studies have shown that flu vaccination cuts the risk of flu-associated death by half in children.”

    Although Najee's mother did note in one of her Facebook comments that two of her children did not receive the flu shot, she did not note which two, and the family has not confirmed publicly whether Najee received his.

  • For now, the family is grieving the loss of their bubbly little boy, who meant so much to them.

    "I'm hurting so bad right now and so is his dad and brothers," his mother told KKTV. "Our whole family is hurting and it feels like we failed him because we did what we had to do."

    Still, many are hoping that this story proves yet again why listening to the advice of doctors -- as opposed to well-meaning but misinformed strangers on Facebook -- is so important.

    For many, the flu is not just a "bad cold," and receiving a flu shot even now, midway through the season, will help protect adults and children from either contracting the virus or experiencing more severe symptoms. At the end of the day, that can sometimes mean life or death.