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Survivor’s Story: Layla Richman

Posted on September 22, 2023
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Last fall, Layla Richman’s family was doing what many families do as the weather cools: Getting deep into the routine of a new school year, taking advantage of cool weather to spend more time outdoors, and planning out Halloween costumes. 

But by the time Halloween came around, 3-year-old Layla had become unusually lethargic. She developed a high fever and started to experience shortness of breath and an elevated heart rate. These common flu symptoms were a painful flashback to what her family experienced back in 2014 when her sister Cayden died of the flu at the very same age as Layla.

“My mind immediately went back to Cayden and how quickly what seemed to be a fairly mild sickness turned into my worst nightmare,” says their mother, Jessica Richman, who is now a Families Fighting Flu board member and current co-secretary on the Executive Committee. “After losing Cayden less than 48 hours after she started having symptoms I knew I wanted to get Layla medical attention as quickly as possible.”

In Cayden’s case, the 3-year-old stayed home sick from daycare. When she woke up with a life threatening fever, her parents took her to the pediatrician’s office but the doctor thought she had a regular cold.

She didn’t get better and they returned to a second doctor who thought Cayden had bronchitis. Neither doctor thought a flu test was necessary, and eventually, the flu caused Cayden’s lungs to fill with mucus. She stopped breathing and could not be resuscitated.

A Flu Vaccine Made This Time Different

Due to their experience with Cayden, the entire Richman family, including Layla, had already received their annual flu shots when Layla began experiencing similar symptoms. Layla’s medical team diagnosed her with the flu, treating the fever with Motrin and the infection with Tamiflu. This, combined with the fact that she had received a flu shot early in the season allowed Layla to recover fairly quickly. 

“While the experience was scary for everyone involved, she recovered within 24 hours,” says Jessica. “I really think that the flu vaccine played a big role. Layla became sick only weeks after receiving the vaccination. It could have been so much worse.”

What Can You Do this Flu Season?

Layla and Cayden’s stories are just some of the dozens of experiences we’ve gathered at Families Fighting Flu that indicate the importance of getting your flu shots early in the flu season. Every year, otherwise healthy individuals of all ages suffer complications from influenza viruses that result in hospitalization and even death. As we get into the 2023-2024 flu season, it’s important that we all do our part to prevent the flu

Check out our guide to How to Prepare for the Next Flu Season, learn more about the flu vaccine here, and most importantly, get your flu vaccine early this season. 

Remember, getting vaccinated not only helps protect you but it also protects others you may come into contact with, including vulnerable populations like young children, people dealing with chronic illness, and elders who may have compromised immune systems. Walk-in flu vaccines are available at most national pharmacies, including big box department stores and warehouse clubs.

Learn More About Fighting the Flu

Families Fighting Flu educates about the seriousness of influenza and the importance of annual vaccination. We imagine a world in which no one suffers serious flu complications or death. Learn more about our mission and resources here and empower your family to stay healthy this flu season.

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