- FFF Advocate:
- Jesse and Megan Parks (father and mother)
- Place of Residence:
- Houston, TX
- Date of Death:
- February 19, 2023
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Kennedy was a vibrant and otherwise healthy 2-year-old who died suddenly from the flu in 2023.
Born six weeks early, our beautiful daughter Kennedy came into this world a natural fighter in 2020. Don’t let her prematurity fool you. Kennedy was a healthy and delightful baby girl, ready to enter daycare by the age of one. After all, she was born in the middle of the pandemic, delaying traditional childcare arrangements. We had a nice little routine going.
That is, until that one time Kennedy got sick, as toddlers do. She was two and a half years old. She had spiked a fever, so we kept her home and tried to manage her fever before taking her to the pediatrician. Kennedy had just been with family and friends on Super Bowl Sunday, dancing and having fun. It was a fast change of events.
Just the Flu
My husband and I were both busy at work, so my mom took Kennedy to her pediatrician’s office. When she was swabbed for the flu, strep, and Covid, she ended up testing positive for the flu. At that time, Covid felt to be the main concern, and I was almost relieved it was “just the flu.”
Her pediatrician pointed out that Kennedy was not current on her flu vaccination, a revelation I was surprised to hear. We became parents during the Covid era, and have always been fully vaccinated for just about anything and everything. But looking back at our busy season of work and routine, Kennedy’s well-check appointment wasn’t scheduled during flu season, so we must have skipped the shot that year. Little did we know, that this critical misstep would change our lives forever.
The pediatrician’s office sent Kennedy and my mom home to rest. The doctor told us to bring her back if she had trouble breathing or if her lips turned blue, which was terrifying in itself.
Business as Usual
We truly didn’t think much of our daughter’s flu diagnosis. Another time Kennedy was sick, the urgent care we had visited sent her to the hospital to get a chest x-ray when they were concerned about her condition. So the fact that our pediatrician released her to go home to rest and get better this time made us think this was “business as usual.”
My husband and I took turns staying home with Kennedy, resting and laying with her. We paid close attention to her breathing and her lips, as the doctor told us. Another three days passed, and we noticed Kennedy’s lips were in fact, turning a different color that day.
I immediately got in my car to take her to Texas Children’s Hospital. On my drive, I kept a close and constant watch on Kennedy in my rearview mirror. But the last time I looked up to check on her, she was no longer responding to me.
I pulled over, called 911, and thankfully a good samaritan who also pulled over to help me in the worst moment of my life called my husband while I was on the phone with emergency dispatchers.
That day, we lost our beautiful Kennedy–to the flu.
If only we had known how very serious the flu can be. We simply did not realize that when a child receives a flu vaccination, it protects them and significantly reduces their chance of hospitalization or death. Unfortunately, we found out too late.
Heartbreak and Joy
Three weeks after Kennedy’s passing, I found out I was pregnant. Imagine our joy and heartbreak to learn that Kennedy would have been a big sister.
To honor Kennedy’s memory, we are vaccinated against the flu. Her baby brother will also be vaccinated as soon as he’s able, at the age of six months. We will make annual flu vaccination a family promise and priority for the rest of our lives.
It is our great hope that our family’s heart-wrenching story of a beautiful little girl, otherwise healthy, resilient, strong, and such a force, would help move you and your family to get your annual flu shots. The flu is a vaccine-preventable disease that should be taken seriously. In an instant, flu has the ability to escalate and irrevocably alter or take one’s life.
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