Kira Molina died on Tuesday of liver failure brought on by the flu


Kira Molina’s parents thought she would be fine after the 15-year-old tested negative for the flu last Thursday. But on Sunday night, the “fun-loving” teen went to bed and never woke up again.

“As a grandmother, this is terrifying,” Judy Higgins, Kira’s grandmother, tells PEOPLE through tears. “It’s one of your worst nightmares. You keep wanting to wake up from this bad dream, but it just keeps going.”

Kira, of Newnan, Georgia, began feeling under the weather last Thursday, so her family took her to the local hospital where she tested negative for the flu. Over the next few days, Kira’s health seemed to improve. But she took a turn for the worse Sunday night, the family says.

“Monday morning, they couldn’t wake her up,” Kira’s cousin, Nikki Guinn, tells PEOPLE. “Her liver started failing with the flu. The flu was causing her organs to shut down … they were hoping a liver transplant would give her a fighting chance. They just needed her to stabilize, and she never did.”

Credit: Courtesy Nikki Guinn

She adds: “It was backwards and forwards of her heart wanting to stop. Her body couldn’t fight it … her body just gave up. Her body couldn’t take it anymore and she passed away.”

Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk confirmed the death to PEOPLE, saying that Kira died at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Tuesday of “liver failure due to Influenza A.”

“They were not expecting it to be so bad,” Guinn, 38, says of Kira’s parents, Mike and Terri Molina. “Nobody anticipated that anything bad was going to happen. It went from she was fine to nothing. She went to bed that night and she never spoke again.”

Credit: Courtesy Nikki Guinn

Hawk told WXIA that Kira likely took a rapid flu test during her first hospital visit, noting that the tests are only 63 percent accurate and could result in a “false negative.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “rapid influenza diagnostic tests” are sometimes inaccurate, showing negative results when a person actually does have the virus.

Credit: Courtesy Nikki Guinn

Guinn set up a YouCaring page to cover funeral costs for the family. And Higgins, 55, says the mounting expenses only add to the pain of losing her first grandchild.

“She was a delightful, delightful child. She smiled, she loved the outdoors, she loved animals,” Higgins tells PEOPLE through tears. “She just brought life and happiness to everyone she met.”

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This flu season has been deadly, claiming the lives of several children in recent weeks. On Jan. 19, 6-year-old Emily Muth, of North Carolina, died just days after she was diagnosed with the flu.

Earlier this month, Jenny Ching, of Needham, Massachusetts, died suddenly of flu complications. Last month, 21-year-old aspiring personal trainer Kyler Baughman died after experiencing septic shock caused by the flu virus. Just weeks earlier, Alani “Joie” Murrieta died one day after she was diagnosed with the flu.

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.