4-year-old Jade Phillips’ parents are sharing their story in hopes other will vaccinate their kids against the flu
There’s a common misconception that the flu isn’t so bad — some sniffles and a fever, like a particularly bad cold. In reality, it’s an extreme and potentially life-threatening virus, as 4-year-old Jade Phillips and her family now know all too well. Jade became sick with influenza B on Christmas, spent the holidays in a coma, and now may be blind for the rest of her life following complications from her illness.
The Phillips family, who live in Iowa, told reporters that Jade was sick for a few days before the holidays. She complained of not feeling well, but she also played with her sister and continued to eat, so the family wasn’t too worried. It wasn’t until Christmas, when Jade’s mom tried to wake her up, that they knew something was horribly wrong. Jade wouldn’t wake up, and she was burning with a fever.
The family took her to their local emergency room, where she had a seizure. She was then airlifted to the children’s hospital at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, about 80 miles away.
“I didn’t think I was going to see her again at that point,” Jade’s mom said. “I really didn’t. Just from looking at her, I really honestly didn’t think I was going to see her.”
At the children’s hospital, the family learned what was going on. Jade had the flu, but she was also experiencing encephalopathy, a type of swelling in the brain that’s a known complication of the flu virus.
“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,” her mom said.
Jade spent seven days in a coma while doctors battled the swelling in her brain and tried to save it from further damage. A GoFundMe to support the family chronicles some of that journey. Finally, on New Year’s Day, Jade woke up.
Over the next several days, Jade improved greatly. She was able to sit up and eat and talk to the people around her. But her fight wasn’t over yet. As they watched her try to play with toys, Jade’s family noticed she didn’t seem like she could see them. Doctors later confirmed that the damage caused by the flu to Jade’s brain had affected her ability to perceive sight, and she’s now blind. She may regain some or all of her eyesight, but she also may not. Doctors said it could be months before her family knows that. It could also be years before the full effects of her brain damage are known — Jade could face learning disabilities or developmental delays later on.
Now, Jade’s family is hoping to share her story to protect other kids, by encouraging their parents to get them vaccinated against the flu.
“If I can stop one child from getting sick, that’s what I want to do,” Jade’s mom said. “It’s terrible to see your child suffer like this.”