Protecting children, families, and communities against influenza.
Family Stories

The Splan Family

FFF Advocate:
Christy Pugh (mother)
Place of Residence:
Norwalk, CT
Date of Child's Death:
February 18, 2018
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At 6 ½ years old, Emma was a healthy, happy, and kind child who loved her friends, animals, dancing, art, adventures, and being with her family. Emma came home from school on Tuesday, February 13th not feeling well. Emma’s parents didn’t know at that time if Emma just had a cold or was developing a more serious illness.

That evening, Emma’s parents took her to the urgent care at their pediatrician’s office. The doctors examined Emma, but did not test her for flu because they were out of flu testing kits. Based on her examination, the doctors concluded that she likely had the flu. They did not prescribe an antiviral medication because Emma was not considered a high risk patient. Additionally, due to the severe flu season, there were ongoing shortages of antiviral medications at local pharmacies. The doctors told Emma’s parents to keep her rested and hydrated, and to control her fever with Mortin or Tylenol.

Even though she didn’t appear to be that sick, Emma stayed home from school the following day and spent time with her parents playing, building forts, and watching movies. A couple days later, on February 16th, Emma went to bed with a slight fever. She woke up vomiting, which her parents initially attributed to eating something that didn’t agree with her. By 10:00am the next day, Emma was still vomiting so her parents took her back to urgent care where she was given some anti-nausea medication. After throwing up the first dose of medication, she was given a second dose along with small sips of water and Pedialyte. Emma and her family returned home where she took a bath and watched a movie with her parents. That afternoon, Emma vomited again. Emma’s parents then decided to take her to the pediatric emergency room.

The doctors at the emergency room admitted Emma, started her on fluids and more anti-nausea medication, and decided to monitor her overnight. At approximately 10:00pm that evening, based on her condition, the doctors told Emma’s parents that they recommended transferring Emma to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Yale New Haven Hospital. When she arrived at the PICU around midnight, Emma was sitting up, talking, and asking for an ice pack. Suddenly around 1:45am Emma coughed and her heart stopped. Doctors worked on her for approximately 30 minutes, administering CPR and epinephrine to try and restart her heart. Despite life-saving efforts, Emma passed around 2:15am on February 18th.

Emma’s autopsy showed that the influenza B virus had attacked her heart, causing viral myocarditis. Her parents feel like they took all the necessary precautions to help protect Emma, including getting her vaccinated against the flu in October 2017. Although they realize that the flu vaccine is not perfect, Emma’s parents strongly believe that annual flu vaccination is critically important for everyone because it not only helps protect us as individuals, but also helps protect others by reducing the spread of disease.

In honor of their daughter, Emma’s parents have started a charity called Emma’s Plan so they can continue to support the things that Emma loved in life, such as art, children, and animals. Emma’s mother makes kitty quilts as a way to honor her daughter’s legacy and has received thousands of kitty quilt blocks from all over the world, including South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and Mexico. Emma’s mother has donated these kitty quilts to Emma’s friends, schoolmates, family, and the health care professionals that were involved in her treatment. Her mother also continues to speak out publicly about the importance of flu vaccination in an effort to help prevent others from experiencing a similar tragedy.

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