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Blue Springs woman dies from flu at age 37; KU Hospital seeing high number of people hospitalized

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- The family of a Blue Springs woman is in disbelief that just days after she turned 37, they're faced with saying goodbye. They say Kristie Green died from complications of the flu even though she had been vaccinated. She is the second flu death at The University of Kansas Hospital this season.

"She could always make me laugh," said Green's daughter, Latool Williams.

Green, a mother of three and grandmother of one, became sick December 19, her 37th birthday. Williams says within two days, her mother went to two hospitals, was told she had Type A flu, and was sent home. Williams says Green went to the hospital a third time as she fought for every breath, and was transferred to The University of Kansas Hospital.

"She just looked so different and swollen and terrible," said Williams.

Williams says her mother was placed on an ECMO machine that does the work of the heart and lungs. She showed some signs of improvement, but the flu had led to a staph infection that eventually overwhelmed her body. She died the day after Christmas.

The chief medical officer at KU Hospital couldn't comment on Green's case specifically, but says people can die of the flu itself or a secondary infection.

"They become septic with a bacterial bloodstream infection and then all the organs shut down," said Dr. Lee Norman.

Green's daughter says she can't believe her mother is gone.

"Nobody's safe, I guess. It's crazy. She was healthy. She was just fine," said Williams.

Dr. Norman says the hospital is inundated with flu cases now. Twenty-five people are hospitalized with confirmed flu. Eighteen more in the hospital are being tested for it.

"I've never seen numbers of flu cases like we're seeing this year, and it's not even in the thick of the flu season yet and that's what's so alarming about it," said Dr. Norman.

He says while the vaccine is effective, it's less effective this year against the predominant Type A strain.

Williams says her mother had been vaccinated.

"Because she was in nursing school, so they made them all get flu shots. And I know she had her flu shot," she said.

But the woman who was set to receive her associate degree in nursing in February still died from the flu.

Dr. Norman says if your symptoms worsen, be sure to get medical help. You may benefit from antiviral medicine if given within 48 hours.

Kristie Green's family has set up a GoFundMe page to pay for her funeral expenses.