By Sydney Lupkin
A Las Vegas kindergartner who died days after coming down with the flu felt well enough to play outside 24 hours before she collapsed, her father told ABC News.
Kiera Driscoll, 5, had a slight fever on Sunday morning, but she seemed to be feeling better after taking some children’s ibuprofen, said her father, Patrick Driscoll.
“In fact, she was playing outside that afternoon with my wife and even made a comment that it was ‘the most fun time ever,'” Driscoll said.
But then Kiera’s slight fever returned and her cough worsened and included phlegm, Driscoll said. At about 4 a.m., her parents gave her medicine to help expand her airways by way of an albuterol nebulizer. She didn’t have asthma but occasionally had a barking cough as a baby, Driscoll said. Afterward, he stayed up with her watching cartoons until she fell asleep again at 8 a.m.
That morning, the Driscolls took her to an urgent care center, where she got another albuterol treatment and was given a steroid to help her breathe, Driscoll said. He went to work, and his wife stayed home to take care of Kiera.
Kiera’s mother tucked her into bed a few hours later for a nap, and turned away to turn on a vaporizer when Kiera said, “I can’t breathe. It’s hard to breathe,” Driscoll said. Then, the little girl collapsed and passed out.
Kiera’s mother is trained in CPR and jumped into action, clearing Kiera’s airways, performing rescue breathing and calling 911, Driscoll said. Kiera’s pulse went away and came back in the emergency room. But her brain wave activity diminished, Driscoll said, and she developed an irregular heart beat and went into cardiac arrest. She died the following day, on Tuesday, Jan. 20.
“Their working diagnosis was that a mucus plug of thick mucus got coughed up and clogged, lodged in her trachea, preventing her from being able to breathe,” Driscoll said.
The little girl’s elementary school celebrated her life last week by dressing in purple, releasing purple balloons and eating frozen yogurt, according to KNTV, ABC’s affiliate in Las Vegas. “Frozen” was Kiera’s favorite movie, and a stuffed Olaf doll sat in her seat at school after her death, according to the station.
Laurel Beckstead, the headmaster of the American Heritage Academy, where Kiera went to school, told KNTV the death was shocking. Beckstead is also Kiera’s aunt.
“She went home happy, healthy, and then to get a phone call that Monday that she had gone to Quick Care Monday morning, released and went home and then later collapsed, was almost a shocking disbelief,” Beckstead told the station. “How can this be happening to Kiera?”
As of the week ending Jan. 17, 56 pediatric flu-related deaths had been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kiera’s official cause of death was that she went into cardiac arrest after coming down with influenza A and pneumonia, according to the Clark County coroner’s office in Nevada, which did not examine her body after her death.
Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease physician at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, said death’s like Kiera’s can be confusing, and some states require autopsies when the explanation is unclear. He said it’s important to remember that influenza can cause death, especially in people with underlying lung and heart conditions — which may not be diagnosed. People at risk for complications, including young children, pregnant women, people with asthma, and the elderly, should contact their physician at the first sign of flu, he said. They may be prescribed antiviral medications to shorten their illness and prevent it from worsening.
“Though Kiera’s passing has shattered the world her birth created for me, the joy of raising her was worth it,” Driscoll said of his daughter at her funeral. He shared the eulogy on a fundraising page set up for Kiera to express his gratitude for the love and support his family received
Driscoll told ABC News that Kiera got a flu shot, and they still want other parents to vaccinate their children.
“Vaccines help save lives, and they help keep other people from getting infected as well,” he said. “We always want people to be vaccinated.”
He said his family has taken comfort in the fact that his wife knew CPR and did everything she could. And he knows he’ll see his little girl again someday, he said.
“If there’s something we can say to someone going through something similar,” he said. “Hold on to your faith. Rely on family and community, and never take a moment for granted.”