JACKSONVILLE, Ill. (WAND) - A central Illinois mother pleads for people to get a flu vaccine after her daughter was hospitalized for weeks due to complications from contracting the disease.
The family of 12-year-old Madi Allen put off getting her a flu shot. Her mother, Shelle Allen, said they didn't have the vaccine when her daughter was going to the doctor for her health physical. She didn't think much of it until her daughter became very ill.
"I felt was huge amounts of guilt because I didn't get her vaccinated," said Allen. "I'm her parent ... I'm supposed to protect her and I made that mistake that year."
In February 2011, Allen recalled the terrifying moments when she learned her daughter was dying.
"I just kept saying they don't know her, they don't know her. She is a fighter," she said.
It all started with Madi was not feeling well. Allen recalled Madi going to a birthday, but phoning home to come back early.
The Allen family thought it was just a small case of the flu, but things changed in a matter of hours.
"I started to notice her breathing was changing," said Allen, who explained her daughter had sports-induced asthma."I was thinking, you know, it's just her asthma flaring up, and so we did her inhaler and stuff, and then by 7 o'clock that morning, her breathing became very, very harsh and just a struggle."
Her mother rushed her to the doctor's office in Jacksonville, but after getting looked at by doctors there, the family learned Madi had double pneumonia and was then rushed to a Springfield hospital.
"We thought since she just had pneumonia we will stay a couple of days (in Springfield)," recalled Shelle. "I ran home packed our bag and by the time I got there (Springfield), she was in respiratory distress."
Madi's heath was deteriorating. She was intubated and her mother recalled seeing her struggling on the hospital bed.
"Her kidneys were shutting down at that point. (They) had to change from the regular ventilator to an oscillator, but around 8 o'clock that night they (doctors) came in and told us that there was nothing more that they could do for her at this hospital," said Allen. "We still did not know what was going on other than pneumonia."
Rushed to St. Louis Children's Hospital, Madi was fighting for her life. She was placed on life support and dialysis. It wasn't until 12 hours in their care that the Allen family found out she had Influenza B.
"The influenza is what started everything and then there were the complications from it," said Allen. "She (Madi) spent two full weeks on life support and we were told she had a 1% chance of survival."
The Allen family was told to prepare for their only daughter's death. Shelle recalled feeling helpless watching her daughter in the hospital bed.
"She was our miracle child and here now I'm being told she's not going to make it," Shelle said.
It was a fight for her life. For the first 2 weeks, Madi was on life support. She was able to come off eventually, but was still on dialysis and was intubated for an additional 3 weeks.
Shelle said there were complications during that time, but Madi was able to recover and walk out of the hospital after 93 days.
"She struggled to learn to walk again," said Shelle. "I remember the first time she wrote her name it took her 20 minutes to write Madi Allen. She's like mom, my brain knows how to do it, but my hand can't."
It was a recovery many doctors didn't think would happen.
Madi was able to graduate from college in May and now has a job.
Her family decided to share their story to encourage people to get their flu vaccine.
"I just didn't want anybody else to go through what we went through and I want to help them learn the importance of protection and prevention."
They hope their testimony will persuade people to get a flu shot, not only for themselves, but for others like Madi.
To learn more about the Allen family's story and Families Fighting Flu, click here.