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

The Schwolert Family

FFF Advocate:
Tom and Melanie Schwolert (father and mother)
Place of Residence:
Lewisville, Texas
Date of Death:
December 29, 2012
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Max Schwolert

Max was a healthy 17-year-old athlete whose life was tragically cut short by flu.

Max’s Flu Illness
Max Schwolert was an athletic and healthy 6’5”, 17-year-old in December 2012 who loved God and loved people. He was a varsity golfer and could be found at the church gym often inviting friends to play basketball. He was a Sunday school teacher, peer minister, and very active in his church. He was the one who high-fived everyone in the school hallway and took the younger golfers under his wing to mentor them. He was encouraging, funny, loving, and positive. He had a presence about him that lit up the room. Everyone enjoyed being around him, and he loved others to the “Max”!

While visiting family at his grandparents’ farm in Wisconsin on Christmas Eve, Max became very tired and had a fever. He appeared pale and weak so he did not attend the church service that evening, which for Max was strange. Thankfully, Max woke up on Christmas Day feeling a little better and participated in the activities of the day. He spent the day playing games with his sisters and cousins, which were filled with lots of laughter and fun. In the afternoon he took a nap, which was not typical for him. After midnight, Max’s symptoms returned, including diarrhea, vomiting, and a high fever. Early in the morning, his parents knew something was very wrong and took him to the local emergency room.

Flu Hospitalization
At the emergency room, Max was quickly diagnosed with the flu. After being there about 30 minutes and receiving fluids, and undergoing lots of tests, the doctor noticed redness on his skin and said his kidneys were failing and suspected a staph infection in his blood. The family was told he needed to be air lifted to a larger hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Laying on the stretcher ready to be taken away, Max looked at his mom and said, “I’m scared, mom.” She said, “I know buddy, I am too.” He noticed his mom starting to cry and said, “It’s gonna be ok, Mom, I love you.” She said, “I love you too.” Those were the last words they had.

At the larger hospital on December 26th, Max was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and his parents were at his bedside trying to comfort him. He kept pulling his oxygen mask down and struggling to say, “I can’t breathe”. The doctor said that they needed to intubate him. His dad told Max, “They are going to put you to sleep so they can help you breathe. It’s going to be okay. I love you.” They had no idea this was good-bye.

The Flu Killed Max
Max was then put into a medically induced coma and treated with blood transfusions, kidney dialysis, placed on an inversion bed, and given numerous drug treatments. There were so many tubes and machines connected to him to monitor his condition. A team of doctors were treating him and were baffled at what was making him so sick. They couldn’t understand why Max was not responding to any treatment. The doctors could not isolate which bacteria had taken over his body. All of his vital organs were failing as a result of his flu illness.

On the morning of December 29th, a brain scan showed that Max no longer had any brain activity. A special service was done at his bedside. His ICU room filled with family, friends, and many pastors. Max’s grandfather (known as Papa to Max) is a pastor and led a service of the commendation of the dying.

Max was removed from life support that evening and his final heartbeat was at 7:21 p.m. His mom, dad, and two sisters, Jazzy and Zoey, held their hands on his heart when he passed away.

Why Healthy Teens Need an Annual Flu Vaccine
Max was perfectly healthy, so his parents did not realize that annual flu vaccination was necessary for young people who are not immunocompromised. Since his death, Max’s family has encouraged people to get an annual flu vaccine through different efforts. They created a non-profit called “Love to the Max” to provide scholarships to high school seniors who intend to continue their education and commit to making a positive difference in the world. Additionally, Max’s high school golf team holds a tournament in his honor. His biggest legacy is his kindness and his great love for his family.

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