Flu blinds, nearly kills 4-year-old girl: 'There were no warning signs,' mom says

Sarah Kay LeBlanc, Des Moines Register

DES MOINES, Iowa – Jade DeLucia started the holiday season a healthy 4-year-old girl, causing trouble with her 5-year-old sister in Waterloo, Iowa.

She spent Christmas fighting to survive. 

Her mother, Amanda Phillips, said Jade felt sick for a few days leading up to Christmas. Jade had a low-grade fever and a runny nose, but nothing that caused alarm.

When the girls' father, Stephen, went to wake them up at 8 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Jade was unresponsive. 

"It was a flip of a switch; there were no warning signs," Phillips said.

The family rushed Jade to Covenant Medical Center, where she tested positive for the flu in the emergency room. Jade received a flu shot in March of 2019, but wasn't vaccinated this seasonA nurse treating Jade asked Phillips and her husband whether they were sure their daughter wasn't faking. A few minutes later, Jade had a seizure. Hospital staff used a crash cart to revive her. 

Phillips said it took about four hours to stabilize her daughter enough that she could be flown to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. 

"It was terrifying. I thought we were going to lose her," she said.

Jade DeLucia almost died from the flu on Christmas. She was left blind and is now recovering at home.

Jade continued to have episodes of seizure-like shaking. After four days, doctors concluded from an MRI that influenza had traveled to her brain, causing swelling that led her body to attack itself. 

Jade spent more than two weeks at the hospital, and her family is now focused on recovery at home. They are also adapting to a new challenge: The damage to Jade's brain has left her blind.

Phillips said the doctors told her that Jade may regain her sight in three to six months. Whatever the outcome, Phillips said she's happy to have her daughter home.

"We could have lost her so many times, and with the brain damage that we were seeing on the MRI scan of her brain, we didn't think any part of her was really going to come back," Phillips said. "Now, just having her up and around and eating and drinking and talking to me – I will take that blessing any day."

As of the first week of January, nearly 700 people statewide had tested positive for the flu during the 2019-2020 season, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Twelve had died.

CDC report: Flu, widespread in 30 states, blamed for nearly 2,000 deaths this season

Family friends have started a GoFundMe for the family's medical expenses that has raised more than $40,000. 

Amanda Phillips says her daughter's illness came on like "a flip of a switch; there were no warning signs."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and when someone touches a surface that has the flu virus on it and then touches their face.

Symptoms can include a fever, cough, runny nose, headaches and fatigue. 

The CDC recommends avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth; washing hands with soap and water; and staying away from those with the virus to prevent getting sick. People with the flu can infect others as early as a day before they start experiencing symptoms, and for seven days after.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Flu blinds, nearly kills 4-year-old Iowa girl due to brain swelling