Matthew Jessie, of Columbus, Indiana, did not expect that the moments he spent laughing with his 7-year-old daughter last Wednesday night would be his last.
“Thursday morning, I went [into her room] to wake her up and see how she was, and she was cold. I turned her over and she was blue. I went to see if her belly was moving, to see if she was breathing, and she wasn’t breathing,” Matthew, 38, tells PEOPLE. “It was very, very scary. It was terrifying.”
Jessie began performing CPR on Savanna and yelled for his wife, Jordan. Paramedics soon arrived and Jessie was taken to a local hospital where she died about an hour later, he says, noting that doctors couldn’t resuscitate her.
Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton Nolting told RTV6 that Savanna was found unresponsive after testing positive for the flu, strep throat and scarlet fever. An autopsy will be performed by a forensic pathologist to determine her exact cause of death.
Jessie says Savanna had a sore throat last Monday, a fever last Tuesday and was diagnosed with strep throat by doctors before being sent home that Tuesday night.
He took her back to the hospital less than a day later when her symptoms grew worse and doctors prescribed the first-grader Tamiflu and sent her home again, he says. Even with the number of flu-related deaths this season, Jessie says he never expected that this would happen.
“It happened so fast it just doesn’t seem like it’s real,” the grieving father says. “There were no signs that indicated that this was gonna happen. She was never sick in her younger years.”
Jessie describes the ordeal as a “horrible nightmare.” He says these past few days have been very difficult for the family.
“It’s hard coming home to where all of this happened. I have three other kids,” he tells PEOPLE. “When you’re getting ready to make dinner, you get out four plates for the kids to make their plates and you catch yourself because there’s only three now.”
“I miss her every day. Her smile. Her laugh that she had. Waking up and seeing her beautiful face, her beautiful smile,” he says.
“I feel like I’m in a dream, and she’s gonna come home any day now or we’re gonna wake up. It doesn’t seem real. She was a very loving kid.”
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Fifty-three children have died this season due to the flu, and hospitalizations rates are at a 10-year high, according to USA Today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently lists the 2017 to 2018 flu season as “moderately severe,” and warns it could get worse.
The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) reports that the flu vaccine lessens the chance that someone catches the virus by 10 to 60 percent and doesn’t guarantee that someone will not catch the flu. However, the annual vaccine is highly recommended by the CDC for everyone 6 months and older and the more people that get vaccinated can limit the disease’s spread throughout the community.
Although mild illness does not usually require medical attention, the CDC recommends that people experiencing “emergency warning signs” of the flu go to a local emergency room.
The CDC recommends ER visits for children having breathing troubles, not eating, children who are not interacting, are irritable, show no tears when crying, have a rash and fever, and have “significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.”