SPRINGFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — Hospitals are at capacity, others are keeping visitors out. This season will go down as a bad one for the flu in Minnesota, but for at least one family, it will always be the most heartbreaking.
The Wells-Brown family of Springfield, Minn. lost their 2-year-old daughter Katrina Wells in January.
“I’ll never, ever look at it the same way again. Never will I take it lightly,” mother Tanya Brown said.
“She was a very fun little girl, very smart.”
Katrina was the smallest of actors. She was a little girl who loved to put on a show.
“She loved to be outside. She loved to go fishing,” father Nate Wells said.
Now, Katrina’s family is left with only pictures of those special times and an unimaginable pain.
“No parent should have to go through this,” Brown said.
Katrina’s 6-year-old sister Kateyln got sick in January. Doctors suspected the flu and prescribed Tamiflu to help the older sister fight it. Her mom asked for more protection for the rest of the family.
“I got the flu shot and Katrina got the nasal mist,” Brown said.
The next day, 2-year-old Katrina woke up sick and when she started to run a fever. Her mother took her to the emergency room.
“They did a urine test and a blood sample and they said everything was fine. They said she had a viral cold and sent us home,” Brown said.
But by the next night, little Katrina was worse.
“She started seizing on the couch and I called 911 right away,” Brown said.
Nearly three hours later, just before Katrina was supposed to be airlifted to the Twin Cities for treatment, she died, just two days after her sister started treatment for the flu.
Dr. Mark Schliess, a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, didn’t treat Katrina, but he says it can take up to two weeks for a vaccine to be effective.
“If the vaccine doesn’t have time to work and you have a severe case of influenza, you can have an unfortunate and tragic outcome,” Schliess said.
It’s why he recommends getting immunizations in the fall before peak flu season hits.
Unfortunately, this advice will not bring Katrina back.
“I just don’t understand how she could be that sick that fast,” Brown said. “I thought I was doing the right thing.”
It has forever changed what flu season really means for this family and for anyone else lucky enough to have known Katrina.
Katrina was one of four children under the age of 18 to die from the flu this season. Nine died in two waves of the flu in the 2009-2010 season.
The Director of Infectious Disease for the Minnesota Department of Health told WCCO that healthcare providers have the option to use Tamiflu to treat other siblings who are exposed to the flu in a household. It’s a question parents can ask.
You can help Katrina’s family by donating to F&M Bank in Springfield, Minn. Contributions can be made to “Katrina’s Memorial Fund.”