Flu leads to Texas teen's death
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
- 17-year-old Max Schwolert died on December 29
- Max had to be helicoptered to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota
- Flu led to a staph bacterial infection that soon led to septic shock
(CNN) -- The common flu rarely kills the young and healthy, but the Schwolert family knows it can.
Their 17-year-old son Max felt ill on December 22 as the family drove to Wisconsin for Christmas vacation, beginning a series of ups and downs that would ultimately claim his life.
At first, Max took Tylenol for his symptoms: a mild fever and nausea.
He woke up the next morning feeling well enough to play in the snow with his two sisters. His family endearingly called him "Panda," for his gentle nature and 6' 4" height.
What you need to know about the flu
How to avoid catching the flu
Flu picks up steam across the United States
The next day, Christmas Eve, Max stayed home with a cough while his family attended church. The extra bed rest seemed to help. By Christmas day, Max felt better again, even participating in the family festivities.
But later that night he took a turn for worse and never got better.
Max Schwolert poses with his sisters, Zoey, left, and Jazzy.
"He woke up very sick," said Tom Schwolert, Max's father.
"He had an excessive 104.9 fever, and we could not break it," said Max's mother Melanie.
The Schwolerts took their son to the local hospital where he tested positive for the flu.
The flu kills about 36,000 people a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though the range varies greatly.
The flu shot reduces one's chances of getting the flu by 60%.
"Within 30 minutes the doctor was like, 'Something's really wrong here. His kidneys are starting to fail. His blood pressure is really low,' " Tom remembered.
Max had to be helicoptered to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, but there was no room on the flight for family. Max's mother had to say good-bye to her sick son and drive separately. That "broke my heart," she said.
"He looked at me and there were some tears rolling down his face. He said 'Mom, I'm scared.' I said, 'I know buddy, I am too.' And then he saw me crying. He said, 'Mom it's going to be OK, you're going to be OK, I love you. And that's really the last coherent thing he said to me."
Max spent four days intubated in the intensive care unit at Regions. A staph bacterial infection soon led to septic shock.
By December 29, Max was dead.
When the Schwolert family returned home from Minnesota, the college acceptance letter Max had been hoping for had finally been delivered.
Map: State-by-state flu numbers
Part of complete coverage on
January 14, 2013 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
An early and severe start to the flu season has many health experts concerned. Here are your top 10 questions, answered.
January 17, 2013 -- Updated 1425 GMT (2225 HKT)
As flu season rages across the United States, federal regulators say they have approved a new kind of vaccine for the virus.
January 17, 2013 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Fears and misconceptions often surround the flu vaccine: Does it really work? Will it make me sick? Could it hurt my baby?
Influenza activity is spreading, creating a moderately severe flu season in the U.S. Send us photos of your flu survival kits.
January 14, 2013 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
We can track flu outbreaks down to the county and determine much about an outbreak's severity and how the virus is spreading. But there's still much that's unknown about influenza.
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1838 GMT (0238 HKT)
Parents of young children who get the flu may have a hard time finding an antiviral drug to help treat them.
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1936 GMT (0336 HKT)
Flu vaccine myths can confuse people trying to decide whether to get a shot. Here are five common myths.
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
You feel worse by the hour. Your joints ache, your head feels heavy, you can't stop coughing, you're freezing even as your temperature keeps climbing, your stomach is upset, even your eyes hurt.
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
With so much flu activity, it's important to protect everyone around you if you feel like you are getting sick. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1014 GMT (1814 HKT)
How will you know if the flu has crossed the line to become deadly? CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has the story.
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
So you got a flu vaccine this season, and you've been reading about the flu epidemic. You might be wondering: Will the vaccine keep me healthy?
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1020 GMT (1820 HKT)
Carl Azuz talks to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta about how to prevent the flu.
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1044 GMT (1844 HKT)
During the past few months, I have gently suggested to my patients that they receive the flu vaccine. Many said yes, but some declined.
January 9, 2013 -- Updated 2259 GMT (0659 HKT)
What do you need to know when it comes to flu germs? CNN's Lisa Sylvester reports.
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1531 GMT (2331 HKT)
If you go to a doctor's office or hospital any time soon, you may encounter an uncommonly long wait.. This year's flu season started earlier, and health officials say it is more widespread and more severe than usual.
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
The common flu rarely kills the young and healthy, but the Schwolert family knows it can.
Today's five most popular stories