'She's lucky to be alive': four-year-old girl left blind by the flu

Jade DeLucia has been left blind after contracting the flu.
Jade DeLucia has been left blind after contracting the flu.  Photo: GoFundMe

Get your child vaccinated: that is the message from Amanda Phillips whose four-year-old daughter has been left blind after falling ill with the flu last month. 

"If I can stop one child from getting sick, that's what I want to do," the US mum told CNN. "It's terrible to see your child suffer like this."

Jade DeLucia spent nearly two weeks in the intensive care unit at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.

It is not known whether Jade will regain her eyesight.
It is not known whether Jade will regain her eyesight.  Photo: GoFundMe

"She is lucky to be alive," the four-year-old's doctor Theresa Czech told CNN. "She's a little fighter. And I think she's super lucky."

Ms Phillips said she first noticed Jade was not herself on December 19. 

"She'd say, 'Mum, I don't feel good,' and we'd cuddle on the couch," Phillips said. The usually bubbly girl had a fever at times, but it was easily brought down by medicine. 

"It was just - it's a little bug, she'll get over it.  There wasn't any sign that would've told me that something was seriously wrong with her."

It wasn't until Christmas Even that Ms Phillips realised her daughter needed urgent medical attention. 

That morning, Stephen DeLucia went to check on his daughter in bed. She was burning hot and unresponsive.  

Advertisement

"I yelled at him. I was like, 'We have to go. We have to go to the emergency room. This isn't right. Something's not right with her," Phillips said.

When they arrived at Covenant Medical Center, Jade had a seizure. Her body started shaking and her eyes rolled to the back of her head.

Jade was soon flown to University of Iowa in Iowa City. As she watched the helicopter take off, Ms Phillips didn't think she was going to see her daughter again.  

"I really didn't. Just from looking at her, I really honestly didn't think I was going to see her," Ms Phillips said.

On Christmas Day the family was told the flu virus has affected Jade's brain - a complication known as encephalopathy.

"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," Ms Phillips said.

Over the next few days, Jade was unresponsive. The devastated family prepared for the worst as the little girl appeared to be slipping further and further away from them. 

But then on January 1 Jade woke up unexpectedly - and her family was elated. 

Jade made significant progress over the next few days as her breathing tube was removed, she could sit up and eat and spoke to her family. 

But then Jade's parents and doctors noticed that something was not right. She did not look at her favourite toy when it was put in front of and she didn't watch to see where a ball she was throwing went. 

Jade's eyes were examined by an ophthalmologist but they were fine. The problem with Jade's sight was in her brain. 

"(The encephalopathy) affected the part of her brain that perceives sight, and we don't know if she's going to get her vision back," Dr Czech told CNN.

"In about three to six months from now we'll know. Whatever recovery she has at six months, that's likely all she's going to get."

In the meantime the family is relieved to have Jade home and has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for her treatment.

"From a full coma to waking up and whispering, "hi mommy" we have been in awe," an update on the  page this week reads.

"While Jade is currently blind, (but we believe in another miracle of sight!) she smiles, she breathes, she cuddles.

"Her story is one of determination, faith, and the gathering of humanity to seek hope. Jades story is not over. With your continued support, her parents amazing guidance and love, and our united belief I know Jade is going to impact our world."

The family is also working to ensure other children do not suffer the same fate as Jade, or worse, by urging parents to make sure their children are vaccinated against the flu every year. 

Ms Phillips said both her daughters had a flu vaccination in March last year. The mum thought that shot was good for an entire year and didn't realise another vaccination would be required to cover the new US 2019-2020 flu virus, as the virus changes each season. 

"We want parents to know they should get a flu shot every season," Phillips said.