The father of a 7-year-old girl who passed away after contracting the flu has spoken out about the speed at which the illness can overtake young people. Savanna Jessie is the latest child to succumb to the virus that has claimed thousands of lives over the last few months. After going to bed unwell, her father, Matthew, made a horrific discovery the following morning.
“Thursday morning, I went [into her room] to wake her up and see how she was, and she was cold. I turned her over and she was blue. I went to see if her belly was moving, to see if she was breathing, and she wasn’t breathing,” he told PEOPLE. “It was very, very scary. It was terrifying.”
Jessie frantically began to perform CPR on his daughter, as he called for his wife, Jordan. Paramedics arrived and rushed their little girl to the hospital, but she died just an hour later. Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton Nolting told RTV6 that Savanna was found unresponsive after testing positive for a deadly combination of the flu, strep throat and scarlet fever.
Matthew explained how Savanna developed a sore throat last Monday, then struggled with a fever last Tuesday. He said that doctors diagnosed her with strep throat before sending her home that Tuesday night.
When Savannah failed to improve, he took her back to the doctors. She was prescribed Tamiflu, the go-to anti-viral drug to fight off the influenza infections that are ravaging many homes across the US. Jessie was shocked at the speed with which the virus overtook his daughter and put her in a grave condition.
“It happened so fast it just doesn’t seem like it’s real,” the grieving father said. “There were no signs that indicated that this was gonna happen. She was never sick in her younger years.”
The dad said that the whole situation has been nothing short of a “horrible nightmare.”
“It’s hard coming home to where all of this happened. I have three other kids,” he told PEOPLE. “When you’re getting ready to make dinner, you get out four plates for the kids to make their plates and you catch yourself because there’s only three now.”
“I miss her every day. Her smile. Her laugh that she had. Waking up and seeing her beautiful face, her beautiful smile,” Matthew continued.
“I feel like I’m in a dream, and she’s gonna come home any day now or we’re gonna wake up. It doesn’t seem real. She was a very loving kid.”
A YouCaring page has been set up to help the family cover their funeral costs. “The family desperately needs financial help to share a celebration of her life, a celebration that she deserves. They want her to go home and be at peace,” the page details. The campaign has already exceeded its goal of raising $8,500.
“Thank you to all who have helped with this,” an update read on Feb 5. “We are going to leave this open that way if we missed any costs or anything else the family needs it will be there. God bless you all.”
Some 53 pediatric deaths have been attributed to the flu during the 2017-2018 season, with 17 deaths nationwide reported over the last week.
There are, however, indications that the flu epidemic is slowly winding down.
According to the CDC, the virus is widespread in 48 states, which shows a drop of one state from the previous week with Oregon joining Hawaii in reporting considerably lower levels.
“Our latest tracking data indicate that flu activity is still high and widespread across most of the nation and increasing overall,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting CDC director. “So far this year, the cumulative rate of hospitalizations is the highest since we’ve been tracking in this way, which goes back to 2010. This is a very difficult season.”
But the CDC said that we are not still not through the worst of it. “We have not hit our peak yet, unfortunately,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said. “Really, the bottom line is, there is still likely many more weeks to go.”
So what are some key signs of the illness in children? Al.com highlights some of the most common points of warning.
What are the emergency warning signs of flu sickness?
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, get immediate medical assistance for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
Learn more about how to avoid and treat the flu by visiting the CDC website here.