Mission: To save lives and reduce hospitalizations by protecting children, families, and communities against influenza.
Family Stories

The Allen Family

FFF Advocate:
Steve and Shelle Allen (father and mother)
Place of Residence:
Jacksonville, IL
12-years-old, 2011
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Madison Allen

Madi was a healthy 12-year-old athlete who spent 93 days in the hospital with a 1% chance of survival. 


Madi’s Flu Illness
Madison (“Madi”) was a bright, healthy, vibrant, active 12-year-old. She was enjoying 7th grade and had just finished playing basketball for her school and soccer for her traveling team. It was supposed to be her downtime before spring sports started. However, on Monday, February 21, 2011, Madi and her family’s lives changed drastically.

On the Friday before, Madi was not feeling well, but she didn’t want to miss her friend’s birthday party. So she found enough strength to go and celebrate and hang out with her friends. She had plans to spend the night with her best friend after the birthday party, but shortly after she got to the party, she texted her mother and said she thought she better come home. That night Madi was coughing and had a temperature so her mother gave her some over-the-counter medicine. Madi asked her mother to sleep in her bedroom. Her mother remembers waking up that night and could feel the heat from Madi’s body.

The next morning Madi felt somewhat better, but that night she started to feel bad again. By Sunday she was so exhausted from not sleeping much the last two nights that she rested the whole day. Her mother kept giving her medicine to break the temperature and help her with a cough. By Sunday night Madi was very restless and could not find a comfortable position. By early Monday morning, she was having difficulty breathing. Her parents were trying to wait until the doctor’s office opened to get her in first thing that morning. Her mother put her in the shower as they were waiting for her father to get home from running errands. Her mother closed the shower curtain to get her a towel and when she opened the curtain, Madi’s face was sunken in and her lips were blue. Her mother walked Madi to her bedroom and called her husband and said he needed to get home fast because they needed to get Madi to the emergency room.

Flu Hospitalization
Madi and her parents walked into the hospital at 7:30 a.m. and the doctors immediately started Madi on oxygen. The x-rays showed double pneumonia. The breathing treatments were not helping so the ER doctor decided to transfer Madi to St. Johns Hospital in Springfield, Illinois. Her father rode in the ambulance with Madi; by the time they got there, she couldn’t breathe. Her mother was told not to worry that the doctors wanted to put Madi to sleep so they could give her some strong antibiotics to make her feel better. Her mother tried to stay strong and not show fear in her eyes, but Madi knew. The tears started to roll down her mother’s face, and Madi lifted her frail hand to her mother’s cheek and wiped the tears away. She said, “Mom don’t cry.” As her mother was walking out of the room, she heard in a very weak fragile voice “Mom”. She turned around and Madi put her two hands together and made a heart. That was the last time her mother heard Madi’s voice or saw her big brown eyes for almost five weeks.

A 3 Month Stay In The Children’s Hospital
Around 10:00 p.m. on Monday, February 21, Madi’s mother and father were called into a conference room at the hospital to speak with the doctor. Madi had 14 different IVs, her kidneys shut down, and they had to move her to an oscillator ventilator. The doctor said she had placed a call into Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. They waited for the flight team to come in and evaluate Madi; they were hoping they would be able to stabilize her enough to transport her. She needed to be placed on ECMO (life support); ECMO would do the work for her heart and lungs. Finally, after three hours the flight team was able to move her onto the helicopter. Madi made the 35-minute journey and once they got her to the hospital, she immediately went into surgery.

On Tuesday, February 22 at 3:35 a.m. Madi was placed on ECMO, dialysis, and the oscillator ventilator. Her parents later found out that Madi had influenza B, necrotizing pneumonia, and MRSA. She was on ECMO for two weeks and on dialysis and intubated for five weeks. Madi had several other issues and setbacks but eventually, after two months in the PICU and one month on the rehabilitation floor, she was discharged from St. Louis Children’s Hospital after a total of 93 days.

Initial Recovery
It took a lot of work and determination from Madi, but she went back to school for her 8th-grade year, played basketball and soccer with her teams, and continued to excel at school. To this day, she still has a horrible cough from all the scar tissue in her lungs (which most likely she will have for the rest of her life) and she struggles with her endurance. She has had and will probably always have issues with pneumonia.

Lingering Issues from Flu
In January of 2021, Madi had to have the lower lobe of her left lung removed because it was essentially “dead” from the damage flu had caused 10 years ago. By removing this part of the lung, they hope she can avoid needing a lung transplant and will have better future outcomes.

A Flu Vaccine May Have Prevented This Ordeal
The year Madi almost died, she did not receive a flu vaccine. However, now Madi and her entire family get vaccinated against the flu every year and encourage all their friends and family members to do the same.

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