The Iowa child spent two weeks in the intensive care unit and was completely unresponsive for a portion of her stay

By Julie Mazziotta
January 13, 2020 11:56 AM
Jade DeLucia

A 4-year-old girl in Iowa, who did not get vaccinated, is now blind after contracting the flu and nearly dying — and her parents are urging people to get the flu vaccine.

Jade DeLucia started feeling sick and running a fever a few days before Christmas, but would improve with over-the-counter medicine.

“She was running around, having fun, eating normally, asking for snacks,” her mother, Amanda Phillips, told CNN. “… There wasn’t any sign that would’ve told me that something was seriously wrong with her.”

On Christmas Eve, DeLucia’s father Stephen DeLucia went to wake up his daughter and found her unresponsive in bed, running a high fever. They rushed her to the local hospital, and Jade started having a seizure — she was shaking uncontrollably and her eyes rolled to the back of her head.

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Doctors had her immediately taken by helicopter to the children’s hospital at the University of Iowa, 80 miles away in Iowa City, while her parents made the journey by car.

“I didn’t think I was going to see her again at that point,” Phillips said. “I really didn’t. Just from looking at her, I really honestly didn’t think I was going to see her.”

Jade spent the next two weeks at the hospital and was completely unresponsive for seven days. Doctors determined that the flu had reached her brain, and Jade had encephalopathy, a rare but known complication of the flu that can cause brain damage and death.

“They said she had significant brain damage. They said our child might not ever wake up, and if she did, she might not ever be the same,” Phillips said.

Dr. Theresa Czech, a pediatric neurologist brought in to treat Jade, started her on steroids to reduce the swelling in her brain. And on Jan. 1, she woke up.

“She’s got her eyes open. She’s looking around. We got a couple of hand squeezes! And then we got a smile!” Phillips said.

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But Phillips quickly realized that Jade wasn’t able to see. Czech said that the flu had impacted her vision, and may led to other neurological issues.

“It affected the part of her brain that perceives sight, and we don’t know if she’s going to get her vision back,” Czech said. “In about three to six months from now we’ll know. Whatever recovery she has at six months, that’s likely all she’s going to get.”

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For now, though, Jade is back at home. She was able to leave the hospital on Jan. 9, and a neighbor has set up a GoFundMe page to help with the family’s medical bills.

Phillips is now urging everyone to get the flu vaccine each season. Both Jade and her sister had received a flu shot in March, and Phillips thought they were protected for the rest of the year, not knowing that the vaccine changes each flu season.

“We want parents to know they should get a flu shot every season,” Phillips said. “… If I can stop one child from getting sick, that’s what I want to do. It’s terrible to see your child suffer like this.”