When Layla Thomas came down with a mild case of the flu, her family wasn’t too worried. After all, the toddler had received a flu shot this year.
As Fox News reports, the 2-year-old from St. Louis started feeling sick in mid-March. While it was clear she had the flu, her symptoms weren’t serious at first.
“She had just a runny nose, maybe a little cough but nothing out of the ordinary that we hadn’t seen before,” her aunt, Jessica Kile, told KMOV.
According to the Belleville News-Democrat, Layla’s mother took her to the pediatrician on March 18. At the time, Layla only had a low fever, runny nose, and a slight cough, so the staff recommended over-the-counter medication and sent the toddler home.
Later that day, Layla’s mother checked on her after a nap and found the toddler unresponsive. She called an ambulance to take her daughter to the hospital. On the way, Layla began having seizures, and her fever spiked to 107 degrees.
At the hospital, Layla was diagnosed with influenza. Kile told KMOV:
“They had her hooked up to everything imaginable. She’s completely unresponsive and is making small eye movements.”
Layla was later moved to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with necrotizing encephalopathy, a rare complication from the flu.
“Basically, the flu attacked her brain and caused massive swelling,” Kile told the News-Democrat.
According to the National Institutes of Health, necrotizing encephalopathy follows a viral disease (most commonly the flu or herpes), resulting in brain damage. Symptoms of the viral infection are followed by seizures, loss of consciousness that can progress to coma, neurological defects, and liver problems.
Necrotizing encephalopathy can affect anyone, even healthy individuals. It is thought to be caused by environmental and genetic factors.
Dr. Rachel Orscheln, a specialist in infectious diseases, told KMOV the area has seen more cases of the flu this year. She added that parents should be on the alert for warning signs of a severe complication, like seizures, sleepiness, and loss of appetite:
“Even with appropriate anti-viral treatments some of these severe complications can result in permanent disability or even death.”
Layla spent the first few days in the hospital on life support. After 10 days in intensive care, she was finally able to breathe on her own. But her prognosis is still uncertain. Her aunt told the News-Democrat:
“It’s a 50/50 chance of survival right now. And if she does make it, there’s going to be a long road to recovery.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help Layla’s family with bills, medical care, and other expenses. Her mother, Victoria Aubuschon, and father, C.J. Thomas, have been by her side throughout her illness. Layla also has an 8-month-old sister, Adilynn.
Layla’s parents have been too emotional to speak about their daughter’s illness on camera. Her aunt told KMOV, “She’s really loving, just a cuddle bug and we’re just praying that we get that back.”