A heartbroken mom has told how her five-year-old daughter died from the flu – two days after falling ill with a fever.
Rebecca Hendricks, 34, said little Scarlett Taylor caught the H3N2 strain of influenza which attacked her lungs and sent her into respiratory failure.
She initially treated her daughter at home for two days for what she thought was a common cold after she was sent home from school with a fever.
But she rushed Scarlett to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington, after her breathing became raspy and she started to appear dazed and confused.
Scarlett was admitted to intensive care where medics battled to save her, but four hours later she was dead.
Rebecca, of Tacoma, Washington, is now urging other parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu, and founded nonprofit End-FLUenza to spread her message.
The mom-of-four, who used to work as a loans officer, said: “Everything happened very, very fast.
“Ten minutes after we arrived Scarlett just dropped, she became really weak and lethargic.
“But I never for one moment thought that she would not leave the hospital alive.
“At one point she called out to me and said: “Mom I have to throw up, I have to throw up”.
“I brought her over a throw-up bag, and she vomited up so much pure, thick blood.
“I was so freaked out, I panicked, and I said: “Oh my God, is she going to die?”
“I’ll never forget that moment when the six doctors just looked at me.
“One of them took me aside and said: “You have to calm down, you can’t say things like that in front of her.”
“He said they were doing everything they could do for Scarlett.
“At this point she was admitted to the ICU and they intubated her.
“Within four hours of being admitted she had flat-lined twice and they brought her back, but then one of the doctors came and said those words to me: ‘I’m sorry but she’s gone’.
“I fell to my knees and screamed at the top of my lungs.”
Rebecca said the months after Scarlett’s death in December 2014 were “a blur” for her family – her husband Michael Hendricks, twins Audreana and Breanna Taylor, six, son Ethan Richardson, 11, and also for Scarlett’s dad Jonathan Taylor, who lives in Ohio.
The former loan officer said: “Nothing made sense after she died, it’s all so blurry.
“I didn’t sleep for days, I just sat on my couch and sobbed.
“My son Ethan was such a comfort to me and I wonder if he ever had time to grieve himself.
“My son was very close to Scarlett and even though she was a typical sibling that got on his nerves sometimes he loved her.
“They used to sit together on the school bus and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been after that Christmas break to get on that bus by himself.”
The mom said one of the main questions she was asked after Scarlett’s death was if she was vaccinated against the flu, which she was not.
Rebecca said she had to really do her “homework” about the flu shot but now does not go a year without getting for her family.
“Now, there isn’t a year my family don’t get their flu shot.
“The vaccine isn’t 100 per cent, but it’s a safety net.
“Each of us play a role and preventing the flu is key.
“If more of us got vaccinated, if more of us stayed home when we are sick then less people would be at risk.
“It’s flu season right now and my children wear masks to school and they have no problem doing it after what happened to Scarlett.”
In February 2015, Rebecca left her job in the financial sector to start her flu-prevention organization, End-fluenza, to raise awareness about the danger of the virus.
“Starting the organization has helped me meet other families who have lost children to flu and made me realize just how common it is.
“My heart breaks for them and for myself.
“Before Scarlett died I was working 50 hours a week as a loan officer, but I realized after starting this organization that I needed and wanted to dedicate all my time to this.”
Rebecca said that parents should go with their instincts when it comes to their sick child, and not to worry about “over-reacting”.
“The thing about the flu is it’s so fast. All that time she was at home she was dying right in front of my eyes.
“I do think that if I had taken her to hospital on the day she got sick in school, she might have been okay.
“One of the main things you can do is to take action fast.
“If your child is sick, don’t worry about overreacting, or think about the wait in the doctor’s waiting room.
“That’s what I worried about and I wish more than anything I could go back in time.”
To donate to the End-FLUenza project or learn more visit https://endfluenzaproject.org/