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

The Pena Family

FFF Advocate:
RoxxAnn Pena (mother)
Place of Residence:
Sinton, TX
Date of Death:
December 19, 2013
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Reese Pena

Reese’s mother thought the flu vaccine was optional. This one decision not to vaccinate forever changed her life.


Reese’s Flu Illness
Reese was a vibrant two-year-old who would sport a tutu with every outfit. She was a healthy toddler, although she sometimes had febrile seizures when she got a fever, usually when she got sick or after receiving a vaccine. She was incredibly active and ran around nonstop.

In late December 2013, Reese’s parents thought she had a common cold, but since she was not running a fever (and did not experience an associated febrile seizure) they assumed she was okay and would recover quickly. On December 18th, she slept almost all day. When she woke, she was acting normally but looked a bit pale. That night she ate dinner and was active as usual.

How The Flu Killed Reese Overnight
The next day, Reese’s grandmother tried waking her up to start the day. When she went into her room, she found Reese unresponsive. Her grandmother panicked and called 911. At the time, it seemed that there was no explanation for her passing given that she had eaten and been active just the night before.

An autopsy revealed that Reese had influenza B. Doctors explained that influenza (flu) had attacked Reese’s heart as she slept.

An Annual Flu Vaccine May Have Prevented This Tragedy
Reese did not receive a flu vaccine that year because of her past reactions to other vaccines. Her mom, Roxxann, thought it was an optional vaccine since it is not always required, and figured it would be best to decline the vaccine in an attempt to avoid any side effects like a febrile seizure. Now, she knows that one decision not to vaccinate her daughter was a dangerous one that forever changed her entire family’s life.

To honor Reese, her entire family, including Reese’s older siblings, gets vaccinated every year. Her mother shares Reese’s story with everyone to encourage them to take the flu seriously. She hopes that her story will help other families learn how to prevent the same tragedy from occurring.

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