'We miss Lucy so much': heartbroken family's plea to vaccinate after daughter’s flu death

Photo: Sofie DeLuis having her flu shot, after her little sister Lucy tragically passed away from influenza last year. ...
Photo: Sofie DeLuis having her flu shot, after her little sister Lucy tragically passed away from influenza last year. Facebook / Light for Riley  

A Western Australian family has shared a moving photograph to encourage others to vaccinate their kids against the flu. 

The image shows their daughter Sofie DeLuis getting her flu vaccination. She is sitting on her dad's lap holding a teddy bear with the words 'Lucy Paige 8.05.2017 – Hold me close when you miss me most'.

The teddy is a memorial pillow for her sister Lucy who died from influenza last year aged just two-years-old. 

"Vaccinating Sofie for flu this year was bittersweet. It reminds us that Lucy isn't here and we lost our daughter," the family said.

"However, it also makes us very proud that not only we are protecting Sofie, we are also doing our part to reduce the chance that this winter another family will have to go through what we have been through and continue to go through every day."

Parents, Rhiannon and Joel DeLuis shared their story on the Light For Riley Facebook page aimed at shining the light on the importance of vaccination. Riley died from whooping cough at 32 days of age. Both Riley and Lucy's families want to protect other children from vaccine-preventable diseases.

"We miss Lucy so much," the family wrote.

"Lucy was like nothing like we expected after her placid rule following big sister! If it could be climbed - she would climb it, if it could be escaped from - she would escape it! 

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"She loved nothing more than being outside digging in the sandpit and following dad around our farm (in Narembeen)."

But that all changed last winter, when Lucy and her sister both developed a small fever which the family initially just thought was a "bug".

"The next day she (Lucy) had bouts of having a fever and being fine. I put her to bed that night but was checking her regularly," Rhiannon explained.

"On one of these checks I noticed that she had vomited so I picked her up and realised very quickly that she wasn't asleep - she was unconscious

"I called an ambulance and just as we were about to be taken to hospital she started having a seizure. She continued seizing the whole way to hospital."

Initially, it was thought Lucy was having febrile convulsions but when she didn't wake up doctors did further testing and they discovered she had Acute Necrotising Encephalitis which is usually caused by a viral infection.

"In Lucy's case she tested positive to influenza b," she said.

"We were told that there was a 40% chance she would die. We chose to focus on the 60% she wouldn't however the next day she stopped responding to treatment and we made the decision to withdraw her life support. 

"Lucy passed away at Perth Children's Hospital at 3:05am on the 24/7/2019 with her mum and dad by her side, just 5 days after having her first fever."

They family are now doing all they can to raise awareness of the importance of vaccinating children and are also raising funds to improve the flu vaccine's effectiveness.

"You hear time and time again – 'the flu vaccine isn't 100% effective' - and it's not," she said.

"We know this and along with the Telethon Kids Institute we are doing everything we can to get something better.

"But for now, it's the best and most effective protection we have against the flu and we encourage everyone to do their part."

According to the Immunisation Foundation of Australia, influenza is currently the most common vaccine-preventable death with five to 10 children dying from influenza each year. 

You can help them honour Lucy's life and raise awareness about the importance of influenza immunisation by entering the Lucy DeLuis Memorial Award. They're encouraging families to share a photo of their child having their flu shot with the hashtags #ProtectEachoOther and #ForLucy. The best photo selected by the judging panel will win $1000.