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Family Stories

The Spencer Family

FFF Advocate:
Christina Granack, mother
Place of Residence:
Glassboro, NJ
Date of Death:
December 28, 2019; 4-years-old
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Julianna Joan Spencer

Within just minutes of arriving at the hospital, the staff called a “code blue” because Julianna’s heart had stopped beating. 

Julianna had a smile that would light up a room and she brought so much joy to her family. She had recently celebrated her 4th birthday and her favorite things included playing with baby dolls, her tablet, and climbing trees.

On December 27, 2019, Julianna’s parents took her to urgent care because she had a fever, was severely tired, and was throwing up. Her mother describes her state that day as “pale and lifeless” in contrast to her usual happy and active self. She was diagnosed with influenza A and sent home with some medication. When they returned home later that day, Julianna’s fever finally broke and her parents put her to bed so she could rest.

After Julianna went to sleep, her parents were concerned and checked on her at 2:00 AM. They went into her room and she appeared to be doing well, so they let her go back to sleep. Her parents returned at 3:00 AM and found that Julianna’s state had rapidly deteriorated. She was unresponsive, her eyes were shaking back and forth, and her pulse was slow. It appeared that Julianna was having a seizure, but she was still breathing.

Her parents called an ambulance and the paramedics administered medication in an attempt to control her seizure. When they arrived at the hospital, the staff rushed her into a pediatric emergency room to intubate her, place lines to administer medication and run bloodwork, and measure her vitals.

Within just minutes of arriving at the hospital, the staff called a “code blue” because Julianna’s heart had stopped beating. Her parents were forced out of the room and dozens of nurses and doctors rushed in to revive her. Despite all efforts, they were unable to restart her heart. Julianna’s flu illness had progressed so rapidly that the medical staff was unable to save her life. They indicated she had a 107-degree fever, high potassium in her blood, and experienced multiple organ failure. She passed away at the hospital on December 28, 2019, just one day after first showing flu-like symptoms.

Although Julianna had received an annual flu vaccine in October 2019, to protect public health it requires the vast majority of the population to be vaccinated because the more people that are vaccinated, the less the disease can spread. Sadly, flu vaccination rates in the U.S. are below target thresholds for both children and adults.

To honor Julianna, her parents share her story to raise awareness and educate others about the potential complications of flu and how quickly it can adversely affect children. 

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