Alani “Joie” Murietta, a 20-year-old mother of two from Phoenix, Arizona, died unexpectedly on Nov. 28 as a result of complications from the flu. The young mother’s sudden death left her family and friends wondering how this happened.
“I saw her on Thanksgiving and she was fine and perfectly healthy,” Stephanie Gonzales, Murietta’s aunt, told BuzzFeed News. Following the holiday, many members of the family fell sick, including Gonzales’ daughter, who works at a warehouse where Murietta was also employed.
Visit To Urgent Care
On Sunday, Murietta was sent home early from work because of her illness. On Monday, she was feeling bad enough to go to an urgent care, where she was diagnosed with the flu and sent home with Tamiflu, a drug designed to treat the virus.
Murietta took the medicine as prescribed, but her symptoms worsened. She was coughing a lot and began having trouble breathing, leading her to go to the hospital Tuesday morning.
Hospital Discovers Pneumonia
“When they checked her, they found her oxygen levels were low and did an X-ray that revealed she had a bad case of pneumonia from the flu,” Gonzales said.
Murietta’s condition quickly worsened, and she was transferred to the intensive-care unit. While being transported there, her heart stopped. Doctors were able to revive her, but then her heart stopped for a second time. This time, the doctors were unsuccessful in their attempts to resuscitate Murietta (shown second from left below).
She had checked into the hospital at around 7 a.m. that morning, and she was declared dead by 3:25 p.m., leaving her family in shock. Murietta had no known preexisting health conditions that would put her at a higher risk of hospitalization or death from the flu.
Who’s At Risk?
According the the World Health Organization, “Yearly influenza epidemics can seriously affect all populations, but the highest risk of complications occur among pregnant women, children aged 6–59 months, the elderly, individuals with specific chronic medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, asthma, and chronic heart or lung diseases, and health-care workers.”
Since Murietta did not fit any of this criteria, her family was stunned that the flu claimed her young life.
“All I want people to know is don’t take life for granted. If you’re feeling sick, go to the doctor,” Gonzales said. “Know your body and trust how you’re feeling—I would’ve never [have] thought that when she felt sick on Sunday, that it would kill her.”
Murietta’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for funeral expenses. She leaves beyond two sons: a 2-year-old and 6-month-old.
In the wake of this young woman’s tragic death, many are wondering what they can do to protect themselves from the potential life-threatening consequences of this common virus.
“To die of influenza as a 20-year-old is very unusual,” Professor Robert Lamb, a Northwestern University biochemist who studies the influenza virus, told People. “When it comes to a 70-year-old, they probably had some underlying secondary condition, but for a 20-year-old, it’s very unusual.”
Lamb recommends that everyone, regardless of age or health status, get the flu vaccine.
“The best advice you can give anybody is to tell them to get vaccinated,” he says.
In addition to getting a flu shot, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that people take preventative actions, such as washing hands often, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may harbor germs.
The organization also stresses the importance of taking antiviral drugs if prescribed.