Indiana woman, 37, dies days after being diagnosed with the flu

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — Plainfield mother Karlie Illg Slaven, 37, has died from complications related to the flu, family members say.

Karl Illg, Karlie’s father, said she worked for Indiana University in grant management and spent the last week of her life caring for her husband and two sick children. Illg says Karlie had not received a flu shot this season due to a scheduling conflict at work. She always made sure to get her shot, he said.

“She took care of all of them,” said Karl Illg. “Then she got tired, she got rundown.”

(Provided Photo/Slaven Family)

Karlie was diagnosed with influenza Friday at a clinic and went to a hospital emergency room Saturday with serious symptoms. Illg says she was released but returned to the hospital early Sunday morning, unable to speak. Karlie was admitted the Intensive Care Unit with pneumonia and passed away early Monday morning.

“This can’t happen. She was only 37, had two little kids,” said Illg. “I shouldn’t have to write her obituary.”

Illg says Karlie’s husband had flown to Dallas, Texas Sunday morning on assignment with the National Guard but returned by 5 p.m. Sunday to see Karlie before she passed. Illg says a parent should never have to write an obituary for their child, and he would like to take out an ad in the newspaper every year urging readers to get their flu shot.

“Just prompt people to get their vaccinations and their shots, and get it taken care of,” said Illg. He knows if Karlie had gotten a flu shot, she may still have gotten the virus. But he says if any of that vaccine was effective, her body would have built up at least some antibodies that might have helped her fight her infection.

“Three of the four of them got sick,” he said, referring to Karlie and her children. “Three of the four of them had a shot. The only one who died was my little girl who didn’t get her shot.”

The Indiana State Department of Health reports January is the deadliest month for influenza this season, but warns the data doesn’t suggest flu season has hit in full force.

“We have not yet seen through our surveillance data that the flu season has peaked yet,” said Pam Pontones, Deputy State Health Commissioner. “Influenza is notoriously unpredictable so we are not sure when activity may peak which is why we continue to monitor activity very closely. Influenza typically runs through the end of April so we still have quite a few weeks yet to go.”

Indiana has seen 54 influenza-related deaths from Dec. 31, 2017 through Jan. 13, 2018. The season total stood at 79 on Jan. 13 and is considered “widespread” throughout the state.

Karlie worked for Indiana University. (Provided Photo/Slaven Family)

“Unfortunately every year people across the country will die as a result of the flu,” said Pontones. “It’s sometimes unclear why some people may die and others don’t.”

Pontones says when you start noticing flu symptoms you should contact your healthcare provider, even with just a phone call, and keep him or her updated on your symptom progression.

“If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as a high fever, difficulty breathing, vomiting, unable to keep fluids down, then it’s a good idea to visit your emergency department,” she said.

Pontones said prevention is still possible, adding that it is still not too late to get an influenza vaccine that may help prevent the flu.

You can receive a flu shot at a local pharmacy (CVS, Walgreens, Dr. Aziz), supermarket (Target, Kmart, Walmart), your county’s Department of Health office, urgent care clinics, through your employer, or through your college or university.

The Illg and Slaven families have established a memorial fund in Karlie’s name for her children’s education expenses. The fund is through the Indiana Members Credit Union, and is titled the Karlie Slaven Family Fund.

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