When the Flu Gets Scary: How a Mild Case of Influenza Killed a Healthy 17-Year-Old

February 06, 2018

During the flu season in 2014 in Minnesota, 17-year-old Shannon Zwanziger died from influenza. Even now, her mother hasn’t recovered from the guilt.

Every year, the flu kills dozens of children. For the 2017-2018 flu season, 53 children have already died and it shows no signs of slowing down.

When Shannon got sick, her mother, Gwen, treated it just like the cold. Shannon went to school on Wednesday and told her mother that her friend had given her the flu.

The next day, Shannon stayed home. Gwen brought her liquids, soup, and applesauce. When she complained of a sore throat, her father brought Tylenol and throat lozenges.

The next day, she developed a mild fever, but they still weren’t concerned. After several days of staying home, Gwen thought that Shannon might be taking advantage of staying home from school.

“I’d go into her room and her eyes would be closed,” she shared. “I couldn’t tell if she was faking or not. I took her cell phone and tucked it under the clean laundry I’d put in her dresser for her to put away. Next time I went in, she had the phone back, so I knew she was OK.”

But by the end of the week, Gwen shared that Shannon just seemed weak. She was still texting and watching TV, but she didn’t have the energy to move too much.

Gwen and her husband decided to take Shannon to the clinic to see a doctor. Gwen stayed home to clean Shannon’s room a little bit. When Shannon and her father arrived at the clinic, he sent Gwen a picture of Shannon in a wheelchair with a mask. That was the last picture they have of her.

The doctor wasn’t able to spend much time with her. He said it was just the flu and she should “let it run its course.”

“Thirty-four hours later,” Gwen shared, “Shannon came downstairs. She went into the bathroom, she tapped on the shower curtain, so I helped her into the tub. By this time I was sweating with fear. I hadn’t helped her with a bath since she was little. Something was horribly wrong. When she leaned back in the tub and I saw her eyes, I knew she was dying.”

Gwen pulled Shannon out of the bathtub and held her in her lap. Shannon died.

Healthcare professionals were unable to do anything. The flu had destroyed her organs.

Gwen warns parents, “Shannon chose not to get vaccinated. I wish she had.” She warns parents to take the flu seriously and keep your loved ones home if they might be sick.

The flu is not something to take lightly. Never hesitate to go to the doctor. Always remember some of the habits that could be spreading germs and infecting your family.

Next: These 6 Habits Are Putting You at Risk for the Deadliest Flu in a DecadeJan 29, 2018