Family’s plea after two-year-old’s death
Heartbroken parents who lost their two-year-old daughter due to complications from the flu want other families to get their children vaccinated before winter claims another young life.
Lucy DeLuis, from the town of Narembeen in Western Australia, died at Perth Children's Hospital in July 2019.
She was the youngest of Rhiannon and Joel DeLuis's two daughters and "sister and bestie" to Sofie.
"Last winter, Lucy developed a small fever as did her sister so I thought they had just picked up a bug," Ms DeLuis said.
"The next day she had bouts of having a fever and being fine. I put her to bed that night but was checking her regularly.
"On one of these checks I noticed that she had vomited so I picked her up and realised very quickly that she wasn't asleep - she was unconscious."
Ms DeLuis shared the message this week with Facebook page Light for Riley, which was set up for baby Riley Hughes who died from whooping cough in 2015.
She said her tiny daughter "continued seizing the whole way to hospital" and was diagnosed with a brain disease that occurs following a viral infection. Lucy tested positive to influenza B.
"We were told that there was a 40 per cent chance she would die," she said.
"We chose to focus on the 60 per cent she wouldn't however the next day she stopped responding to treatment and we made the decision to withdraw her life support."
Just five days passed between Lucy's first fever and when she died with her parents by her side on July 24.
Ms DeLuis's comments were accompanied with a photo of daughter Sofie getting her flu shot on Tuesday.
She described the moment as "bittersweet".
"It reminds us that Lucy isn't here and we lost our daughter," she said.
"However it also makes us very proud that not only we are protecting Sofie, we are also doing our part to reduce the chance that this winter another family will have to go through what we have been through and continue to go through every day."
Speaking about her little sister last year, Sofie, 4, said: "I miss her the most at night time and it's not fair."
According to the most recent Causes of Death data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 12 children aged between one and 14 died from influenza or pneumonia in 2018. Influenza killed 21 people under 45 in 2017.
In a report, published in October last year, the Department of Health said 5.2 per cent of children confirmed with influenza since seasonal hospital monitoring began in April 2019 were admitted to Intensive Care Units.
Last year, Australia experienced an early and vicious flu season with a three-year-old girl losing the ability to walk and talk. A week earlier, a 10-year-old boy died from complications from the flu.
The Lucy DeLuis Memorial Award has been established through the Immunisation Foundation of Australia, encouraging parents to submit a photo of themselves or their children getting the flu vaccine with the hashtags #ProtectEachOther and #ForLucy. A photo judging panel will choose one family to receive $1000.
The Perth-based Telethon Kids Institute wants to develop single-shot vaccines that protect against "all strains of an infection, for life" including infectious diseases such as influenza.
"We thank the DeLuis family for their incredible bravery in sharing their story and their continued support of our vital research in this area," the institute said on Wednesday, thanking the parents for the "powerful photo".
Ms DeLuis said they were working the institute to do everything possible to get "something better".
"But for now it's the best and most effective protection we have against the flu and we encourage everyone to do their part," she said.
The National Immunisation Program is available for babies, young children, teenagers and older people, allowing eligible Australians to get the influenza vaccine for free.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said due to the COVID-19 outbreak, people can leave home to get a flu shot but he recommended they call ahead, make an appointment and make sure their health care professional has the vaccine available.
"This year it is even more important to be vigilant about the flu because of the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
"While there is not yet a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19, vaccination provides an effective defence against the flu.
"Vaccinating against the flu will reduce the risk of a very dangerous double-up of flu and coronavirus - both diseases affecting the respiratory system."
He said from May 1, 2020, all aged care workers and visitors must have been vaccinated against seasonal influenza to enter an aged care facility.
Originally published as Family's plea after two-year-old's death