On February 27, 2008, 12-month-old Noel Ann Smith spent the morning with her grandmother playing and taking some of her first steps walking. She had a slight fever so her mother took her to the doctor. The doctor said that it was a virus that would run its course.
Through the night Noel had a fever and a croup like cough. Her parents took her to the emergency room where she was given a steroid shot. The doctors then sent the family home with instructions on how to care for a child with croup.
That Thursday and Friday Noel appeared to be getting better. Her fever was gone and the cough had subsided. But, throughout the evening of Friday, February 29 (Leap Year) Noel was having difficulty breathing. Her fever returned and the cough had become worse.
Her parents took her back to the ER early Saturday morning. The hospital decided that they needed to admit Noel for breathing treatments. The nurses put a tube into Noel’s nostrils to allow oxygen to flow. Noel was given another steroid shot that morning. After several breathing treatments her condition seemed to improve throughout the day on Saturday.
But, that night her condition started to deteriorate so the doctors decided to do a rapid test for RSV and Influenza A. Both tests came back negative. Noel’s parents tried to give her enough bottles to keep her hydrated because the nurses on staff didn’t have an IV on Noel; they felt that she was doing well without one. But, Noel’s coughing kept getting worse so they increased the breathing treatments.
Early the next morning Noel’s parents took her to get an x-ray of her lungs to see if pneumonia had set in. The x-rays showed no sign of pneumonia. Noel’s parents were optimistic and hopeful that she would soon recover.
But, shortly after the x-rays were read, the morning staff came on duty. They took one look at Noel and began to panic. Noel was immediately given a full oxygen mask. The surgeon was called. The staff told her parents that she was going to have to be med flighted to the nearest children’s hospital in Madison, WI.
The doctors then told Noel’s parents that she wouldn’t make it to Madison unless they intubated her to help her breath. The doctors assured her parents that this would be a simple surgery and it was necessary. Her parents were told that they could either stay in the room or wait in the hallway watching through the window. They chose the hallway. An anesthesiologist was brought in along with an ENT doctor to assist with the surgery.
They started to operate when all of a sudden the curtain closed in front of Noel’s parents to block their view of their daughter. The only thing they could see was a reflection of Noel’s monitor that read flat line.
A nurse then asked Noel’s parents if she should call their priest and family members. Just like that, a parent’s worst nightmare became the Smith’s reality. Her parents went into the room and watched as the doctors tried to resuscitate their daughter with CPR. Meanwhile, the helicopter staff sat in the hallway waiting for a child in which they weren’t going to be transporting. Noel’s parents said their final goodbyes as they prayed with their priest. Noel’s heart stopped beating at 9:42 a.m. on March 2, 2008.
An autopsy determined Noel’s death to be from Influenza A, RSV and pneumonia. The three illnesses that Noel had been previously tested for had taken her life. Noel’s parents had tried to get her a flu shot several times, but they weren’t able to because she had a cold at the first appointment, then a snowstorm hit, which made travel difficult for the next scheduled appointment, and finally the hospital’s annual vaccination supply ran out.
In memory of Noel her family started an annual walk, Noel’s Angel Walk, which takes place during the WBEV/WXRO Children’s Radiothon in Beaver Dam, WI. The money raised helps local non-profit children’s organizations. The walk also hopes to raise awareness to families about childhood illnesses and the importance of immunizations, with a special emphasis on flu vaccinations.
- Scott and Lori Smith
(father and mother)
Place of Residence:
- Beaver Dam, WI
Date of Child's Death:
- March 2, 2008