On Monday afternoon a bright and bubbly Crystal-Lee Wightley sat with her expecting aunt searching for the perfect name for her baby cousin. 

Just five days later, the 13-year-old schoolgirl was found unconscious in her room after falling ill with the flu. Crystal is the latest victim of what has been a horrific flu season.

Her very sudden and tragic passing has left a massive hole in the hearts of her family and acts as a stark reminder of just how dangerous influenza can be.

flu death Crystal Lee

Another flu death. What happened?

On Tuesday afternoon the “perfectly healthy” teen started to feel a bit ill. She had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Friday afternoon but was found unconscious in her room earlier that same day. Paramedics were called but they couldn’t save Crystal.

According to 7News, Crystal’s two little brothers had been battling the flu last week but had started to recover.

Family’s emotional tributes

The very unexpected death has shocked Crystal’s entire family and the community of Baxtor, Victoria, where the Wightley’s live.

flu death victorian schoolgirl

According to Crystal-Lee’s aunt, Yvette Southgate, the family is still struggling to comprehend how quickly her health deteriorated.

None of us thought we needed to go to the hospital, she was perfectly healthy and was giggling and laughing with her cousins days before. We are in a fair bit of denial — it seems so impossible, it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Family member Channi Gartland shared, “Crystal-Lee was kind, smart, beautiful and had comebacks that would make a room stop and then laugh. She was honest. She was caring and her heart was in the right place when it came to caring for the little people in her life.”

‘I just can’t stop crying’

Crystal’s heartbroken grandma, Karyn James Wightley, also wrote a very touching tribute to her firstborn granddaughter on Facebook

Today was a very sad day and I am heartbroken to say my 13-year-old granddaughter Crystal-Lee Wightley has gone to heaven and to live with the angels.

My firstborn granddaughter, I was with you when you entered the world and I cut your cord. I took you shopping and on holidays to Queensland and Bali and we were planning to go back in November. [We] wanted to ride on an elephant and this was to happen this time.”

flu death crystal lee and grandma

My darling, I am heartbroken and life will never be the same. Nanny will always miss you. Big Poppy and Big Nanny will be waiting to put their arms around you and keep you safe until we meet again. Missed and loved always. I just cant stop crying, beautiful girl.”

Worst flu season on record

Crystal is only one of the 231 people who have died across the country in this year’s horrific flu season. This compares to 57 deaths in the whole of 2018.

Although most of the flu victims are over the age of 60, in May 2019 three children from Victoria all died from the flu. 

And just four days ago an outbreak of flu in WA was blamed for the death of Karratha toddler Elijah Huynh.

More than 120,000 Australians have been sick with the flu this year and there are still many weeks left in the flu season.

Flu symptoms to be aware of:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhoea, though this is more common in children than adults.

If you suspect you or your child has the flu, then don’t risk passing it on to others. See a GP as soon as possible.

VACCINATE YOURSELF AND YOUR KIDS

Crystal’s tragic death is proof of just how quickly the flu can strike but it’s not too late to vaccinate. The flu vaccination is still widely available and free for children aged six months to five years. Pregnant women, those aged over 65, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those with a chronic condition are also eligible for a free flu shot.

For more information on the flu shot, have a look at Everything Parents Need to Know About the Flu Shot for Kids.

Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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