Iowa girl, 4, suffers brain damage after contracting flu

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL/CNN) - An Iowa family knows all too well how dangerous the flu can be after the virus left their 4-year-old daughter fighting for her life and suffering from extensive brain damage.

Jade Delucia, 4, was diagnosed with "influenza B that had gotten into her brain" near Christmas, her grandmother says. (Source: Family photos/KWWL/CNN)

Christmas is still on hold for 4-year-old Jade Delucia and her family. The little girl first told her parents she wasn’t feeling well on Christmas Eve. The next day, they found her unresponsive.

Jade was rushed to the hospital, where she began seizing, prompting staff to life flight her to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.

"They tested her for a lot of different things to ensure it wasn't several infections or bacteria, but the only thing that came back was influenza B that had gotten into her brain,” said Courtney Frey, Jade’s grandmother.

It was a diagnosis the family never expected, as the flu left the 4-year-old fighting for her life.

"It was touch and go. She just couldn't breathe. The flu had built up in her lungs. Her brain had swelled,” Frey said.

For nearly two weeks, Jade was hooked up to machines, with her MRI results showing extensive brain damage. Doctors weren’t sure what her condition would be after waking up.

A few days after New Year’s, the 4-year-old opened her eyes.

“She opened her eyes and started to move her little hands, and we just started to see a little bit more of her come back to us,” Frey said.

The family is now praying for a full recovery and a day they can take Jade home to see her Christmas tree and gifts.

"It's our sign of hope that she is coming home,” Frey said. "We will have Christmas in March if we have to."

Frey says Jade’s mother wants to encourage other parents to take their children to the doctor to get tested if they’re sick for more than 24 hours.

“Get them tested. Demand for an influenza test because she said I would have much rather paid for the test than this,” Frey said.

Family friends have raised more than $6,400 on GoFundMe to help pay for Jade’s medical bills and treatment. Others are selling bracelets and sweatshirts. Frey says the money has allowed the 4-year-old’s parents to stay by her side while they miss work.

The flu is currently considered widespread in Iowa and 44 other states, according to the Centers for Disease Control. At least 27 children have died from the virus this season, all but nine of those with the same strain as Jade.

Copyright 2020 KWWL, Family photos, GoFundMe via CNN. All rights reserved.