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Family Stories

The Cover Family

FFF Advocate:
Vira Cover (mother)
Place of Residence:
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Date of Child's Death:
December 1, 2003
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Elizabeth Terese Cover

Elizabeth was just 23-months old when she started exhibiting symptoms of flu. Three days later she passed away when her lungs filled with blood in a complication known as bi-lateral pneumonia.

It was Thanksgiving Day, 2003 when Vira noticed that her 23-month-old daughter, Elizabeth, wasn’t feeling well. She was just not acting like her sweet, energetic self. Instead, she was lethargic and cranky, and she didn’t want to be touched which was very unusual; usually she was very cuddly. 

The family was celebrating the holiday in Colorado Springs, but Vira decided to take Elizabeth home to Denver because she felt Elizabeth would be more comfortable in her own bed and Vira wanted to be near her doctor so she could have Vira seen immediately after the holiday. On the way home, she called her pediatrician and left a message and by the time they finally arrived home, Elizabeth’s fever has broken and Vira was hopeful that things might be getting better. However, Elizabeth remained lethargic. 

The doctor eventually called and advised Vira to get over-the-counter medication for Elizabeth. He said that unless her fever got to 104 degrees she shouldn’t need to bring her in. Elizabeth’s fever never increased over 103 degrees. Vira had told her husband that unless Elizabeth was doing much better the following day, she had planned to take her in to the doctor when he got home from work. 

At noon that day, Vira was sitting on the sofa with her daughter when she suddenly threw up. Vira noticed blood in the vomit and immediately grabbed her daughter and ran to the neighbors’ house for help. They called 911 and Vira started doing CPR on Elizabeth, who had become unconscious. When the paramedics arrived, they took Vira into another room of the house so that they could work on Elizabeth. They worked on her for what seemed like forever, and then they eventually came in and informed Vira that her precious child had passed.  

An autopsy confirmed that Elizabeth had contracted the flu – H1N1 specifically – and that it had led to a complication called bi-lateral pneumonia in which her lungs filled with blood.

Elizabeth was supposed to have a doctor’s appointment on December 22, at which time she was scheduled to receive her recommended childhood vaccines, including a flu shot. But the appointment came too late. Elizabeth passed away just one month before her scheduled doctor appointment.  She was one of 152 children in the U.S. who died from flu during the 2003-2004 flu season.

Vira often wonders what Elizabeth would be doing today if she were still here. She wonders about school and dances and boyfriends—all those “what-ifs”. But rather than dwell in grief, Vira advocates for the importance of flu immunization in hope that something positive can come out of her years of pain. 

She believes Elizabeth’s story has a purpose, and that is to make a difference for other parents and their children. She wants others to know that flu can be very serious. Every year children – and even otherwise healthy adults – die from flu.

She explains that getting a flu vaccine every year means making sure you’re as protected as possible. Even though the vaccine can’t guarantee you won’t get flu, it can help to reduce the severity of illness and keep you out of the hospital. Vira shares her story to illustrate that flu vaccination can save your life or the life of a loved one, and that not vaccinating is a risk you shouldn’t take.

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