A Texas teacher and mother of two has died of complications related to the flu after reportedly forgoing medicine she felt was too expensive.
Heather Holland was sick for about a week before she was rushed to the hospital with the flu, pneumonia and sepsis, according to relatives.
She was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit and put on dialysis, but she could not be saved.
Holland died on Sunday, Feb. 4. She was 38 years old.
Holland planned to pick up flu medication, but thought the $116 copay was too high, her husband told the Weatherford Democrat. He said he bought the medication when he found out she planned to go without, but things got worse.
“I have to be strong for the kids but it’s still surreal,” Frank Holland told the Democrat. “It hasn’t all set in.”
The couple married in 2004 after dating for seven years. They have a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son together.
“We’ve been together a long time, over half my life,” he said. “She’s my best friend, my soulmate, my everything.”
She had been employed as a second grade teacher at Ikard Elementary School since 2014.
“Heather was an outstanding educator… and touched the lives of many students, parents, and staff members,” Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hanks said in a statement. “Our thoughts remain with the Holland family and our Ikard staff during this difficult time.”
The parents of her students were among many who donated to a GoFundMe page created to help the offset medical and funeral expenses for the Holland family.
“My twins adored her and hugged her daily walking through the halls of school,” one donor wrote.
As of Monday, the page had surpassed its $15,000 goal.
“Thank you from our entire family for loving and caring about Heather and her family,” the page noted.
Holland’s death comes as health officials warn this flu season has reached the intensity of the 2009 swine flu epidemic and shows no signs of slowing down.
“Right now, one of the biggest health threats we are facing is influenza,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, the acting principal director of the CDC, said at a Feb. 2 press briefing. “We’ve probably got several weeks left of increased flu activity.”
Hospitalizations due to the flu are at the highest officials have seen in recent years, with hospital overcrowding and a shortage of antiviral medications and rapid influenza tests reported in some areas as a result, she said.
At least 63 children have died as a result of the flu. There were 40,414 deaths in the U.S. during the third week of 2018, and 4,064 were from pneumonia or influenza, CDC data shows.
“Flu is incredibly complex and difficult to predict and this season is a somber reminder of why flu is one of the world’s greatest public health challenges” Schuchat said.
Many strains of the flu have simultaneously occurred nationwide over the past several weeks, making the issue a more difficult one to contain.
“This is an unusual pattern for flu in the U.S.,” Dr. Dan Jernigan of the CDC said.
Authorities recommend getting vaccinated, noting that although the vaccine does not protect against all strains of the flu, it can help reduce the severity of symptoms if a person becomes sick.
“It is not too late to get the vaccine,” Schuchat said.
She urged people feeling sick to stay home to help prevent spreading respiratory viruses to others, to frequently wash their hands to reduce the spread of infection and to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.
“Most people who get flu have mild illness and will get better without medical care or antiviral drugs,” Schuchat said. “However, those who obviously are very sick or at high risk of developing serious flu complications should be treated as soon as possible with antiviral drugs. Remember that young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with heart or lung disease have a particularly hard time with the flu.”
Holland’s loved ones gathered together for her memorial on Friday and her funeral on Saturday. Her family asked that in lieu of flowers, people donate books to a library in Holland’s honor.
“Heaven gained a pretty freaking awesome angel,” her sister-in-law wrote on Facebook. “You will be missed my sweet friend.
“Folks [it’s] no joke, do not mess around with the flu this season,” Holland’s sister-in-law continued. “Please get a flu shot, and at the first sign of any symptoms seek medical attention. Don’t try to tough it out. Be safe!”