A Minnesota woman's heartbreaking note about losing her daughter to influenza has begun making rounds on the internet.
Earlier this month, Gwen Zwanzinger announced that she and her partner, Terry, would be featured in a CNN Films documentary to spread awareness about the influenza virus and its often overlooked tragic consequences.
Now, Gwen Zwanzinger, the mother of the 17-year-old Shannon Zwanzinger, who passed away from the virus, has described the nightmare she says she and her husband have been living since the loss their daughter.
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"After more than two years, my husband Terry and I haven't said the "D" word yet," Zwanzinger wrote. "We say 'she went to heaven.' We say 'she left.'"
"Although I have said, 'she died' several times, we somehow can't say the words 'Shannon is d...'"
Zwanzinger says her daughter told her she caught the flu from a classmate. So, she sent her to her room and treating her with "the same things any parent would."
"I brought her liquids, applesauce, and soup," Zwanzinger said. "She complained of a sore throat, so her dad brought home throat spray, Tylenol, throat lozenges, and a little gift. She developed a fever, but not so high to take her to the ER."
But her daughter's health began to take a turn for the worse after developing a fever, which prompted Zwanzinger to send her husband and daughter to the clinic.
"She developed a fever, but not so high to take her to the ER," she said.
"Terry sent me a picture of Shannon sitting in a wheelchair with a mask on, leaning her head on his shoulder," Zwanzinger said.
And that would be the last photo they'd take of her.
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"When they returned home, she walked in through the back door and said the visit to the doctor was a waste of time," Zwanzinger recalled. "The doctor just said it was the flu and to "let it run its course."
She says the doctor didn't take much time to examine her daughter as the waiting room had been packed with others who also seemed to have the flu.
Thirty-four hours later, Zwanzinger notes, her daughter went into the bathroom to take a bath, but needed assistance getting into the tub.
"By this time I was sweating with fear," Zwanzinger said. "I hadn't helped her with a bath since she was little."
"When she leaned back in the tub and I saw her eyes, I knew she was dying. I got behind her and lifted her out. I sat on the toilet with her sitting on my lap and she died."
Zwanzinger believes if her daughter had gotten the flu vaccine, which her mother says she chose not to, she might still be alive today.
"If I had pushed her into getting a flu shot, then I wouldn't have the guilt about 'what if,'" Zwanzinger said. "While you can still get the flu even if you've had a flu shot, it can reduce the risk of serious illness and complications."
Now she is using her family's story to issue a warning to other parents that they should take the flu seriously and bring eyes to the potentially deadly virus.
"Keep your loved ones home if you even think they might be sick," she said. "Or else you might live wondering if a classmate died because your child brought that strain into the classroom."
"I was just a regular mom of a regular kid," she said. "Now I'm a shell of the person I was."