Ayzlee’s Story

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It never crossed my mind…my beautiful healthy 3 year old would be fighting for her life.

December 26

We live in a small town in Iowa and it was just after Christmas at our house.  The  kids were still playing with their new toys. Ayzlee loved playing with her big brother Easton and big sister Irelynd, when they had the patience for a 3 year old. Dress-up was her all-time favorite. Everything seemed fine.

December 27

Ayzlee woke up and told me us her legs hurt so bad she couldn’t walk. She felt warm. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong but my husband and I bundled her up and I drove her to the local clinic. I was thinking maybe she had a urinary tract infection.

When we got there, her temperature was 102. The doctor suggested they test for influenza since flu had been going around. I’m a Respiratory Therapist and, to me, she didn’t have any respiratory symptoms like a cough or runny nose. But soon after, her test came back positive for influenza virus types A and B. The doctor told me to expect the “typical” respiratory flu symptoms in the day or two.

Flu! Now my biggest worry was whether the rest of the family would get it too.

The doctor sent us home with directions to give her plenty of fluids, Ibuprofen and Tylenol to lower the fever, and Tamiflu, an antiviral medicine.  Later that day, her fever broke. I was so relieved and figured the worst was over. But then she started vomiting. It might have been the Tamiflu because it can cause an upset stomach. She rested but she didn’t have any appetite that whole day. Finally, I got her to eat a little toast and she seemed to perk up.

I was worried that she still hadn’t quite turned the corner and might be dehydrated from vomiting so I put her to bed on the sofa and I curled up with her that night.

December 28


The next day, Ayzlee didn’t complain about feeling sick. She slept off and on and watched cartoons on the couch. By the evening, she had a confused look, and when I took her pulse it was racing. This was enough to know something was definitely not right. While Jim stayed at home with Easton and Irelynd, I took Ayzlee to the ER. I was thinking, she’s dehydrated and needs fluids. This will just be a quick trip.

In a way it was quick. We were in the ER with doctors and nurses around us. Ayzlee was starting to look really out of it. I was standing right there beside her at the ER. Seeing her like that made me feel kind of panicky, like this was definitely more than dehydration, but I never thought what the outcome would be.

The medical team asked if I preferred Ayzlee stay there for observation or to transfer her to a specialty hospital AyzleeCoverShotin the city.  I chose Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, about an hour away. Her breathing was steady, so when I called Jim, I told him to stay home and that we would both be fine. I rode in the front of the transport vehicle while a trauma nurse and a paramedic sat in back with Ayzlee and watched the movie “Frozen” to distract her during the ride. They’d call up to the front every so often to reassure me everything was okay.

It seemed like almost as soon as we got to the new hospital my little girl got restless and started having a really hard time breathing.

We had to put her on oxygen and hold a mask over her face. I held her little mask in place. During this time, with so much activity around her, she didn’t even cry. I couldn’t believe how brave she was.

You’re thinking “it’s just the flu” and I’d never really been that worried about the flu before. We’d all had our flu shots. Even though this was a bad flu year, my biggest fear was still that the rest of our family might get the flu.  It never crossed my mind in a million years that my beautiful healthy three year old would be here fighting for her life.

I was falling apart inside but I had to hold it together. I kept telling myself “it’s just the flu!  It’s going to be okay.”

December 29

We were in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). About 4 a.m. I had been cuddled up next to Ayzlee, AyzleeMom2

trying to calm her down so she would get some sleep, but she got restless. I looked at the machines monitoring her vital signs. Her heart rate was way up. I got a nurse who went to find a doctor.  My medical training kicked in and I realized her lungs needed help. I knew she was in distress and it was affecting the rest of her body.

The doctor told me that Ayzlee’s only chance was to intubate and let the machine breathe for her. I knew about this procedure from work, I’d seen it lots of times. But nothing really prepares you for  when it’s your own child.

Now, I wished that I’d asked Jim to come earlier, but he was an hour away so I just tried to stay strong while he was on the way. We’d left the house the day before seeking some extra fluids. Everything just started spiraling so fast.

I sat there at Ayzlee’s side and I saw her reach out both arms, as if she was trying to sit up, which she clearly didn’t have the energy to do.  She seemed to be reaching out to someone. She started telling me “Mommy, I done. I done, I so tired!”  I was absolutely shocked. This is not something you ever expect to hear from a 3-year-old and never from my own child!”  I hugged her and told her I loved her. Then I stepped out into the waiting area so the doctors could perform their procedure. I was telling myself the ventilator will help her rest. It’ll be okay. I’ll see her again in a minute. But her words did really rattle me.

Facing the worst


I saw medical personnel  rushing in and out and no one was telling me anything. Then I saw the clergy. I  couldn’t bear to acknowledge what was running through my mind. After what felt  like an eternity, Jim got there and they brought us into the room. One of the doctors explained that while they were intubating Ayzlee, her heart had stopped. Every time they stopped compressions and helping her breathe, she would have no heart rate.

Jim had left our other kids with my cousin and we made the decision that they should have the opportunity to say goodbye to their sister. I think this was possibly one of the hardest parts of the AyzleeIntubate

whole horrible ordeal for our family. Jim’s boss and her husband drove my cousin and the kids to the hospital so they could see Ayzlee and tell her whatever they wanted. The kids weren’t told until Jim and I could explain in person. We wanted to be the ones to tell them.  Irelynd cried uncontrollably. Easton said he started to lose the feeling in his legs. This is an unbearable situation no family should have to face.

Our Family’s Message about the Flu and Flu Vaccine


One thing we want people to know is that we have no regrets about the flu vaccine. Flu   vaccine is modern medicine based on science. We know no medicine is 100% effective. We would have never forgiven ourselves if we hadn’t given our daughter everything available to save her. We are thankful to have two healthy kids who, with their flu shots, weathered the flu season without getting sick.

We are sharing Ayzlee’s story to increase awareness about what flu can do to a healthy child. Our advice is to vaccinate your children and yourselves against flu every year. If you think your child has the flu, call the doctor or head to urgent care or the emergency room. Don’t wait because you believe it’s “just the flu.”


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