Iowa girl who lost vision due to the flu regains sight

Posted at 11:14 PM, Mar 09, 2020

A 4-year-old Iowa girl who went to blind in December after complications from the flu regained her vision, CNN reported on Sunday .

Jade DeLucia got a life-threatening case of the flu, CNN reports, and the illness left her blind for several weeks.

The family told CNN that her family suddenly noticed that Jade was able to walk on her own without touching the walls.

Her family told CNN that Jade will see an ophthalmologist later this month.

On Christmas Eve, the happy and healthy 4-year-old had to be life-flighted to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital after her father, Stephen DeLucia, found the girl unresponsive.

"I didn't think I was going to see her again," Amanda Phillips, Jade's mom, told CNN. "At that point, I really didn't."

Jade had contracted a strain of the flu called influenza B. It's spreading quickly across the country, which is unusual for this time of year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors say children are most vulnerable to this strain of flu.

On Christmas Day, Jade's parents were told the flu had affected their child's brain. Encephalopathy, a broad term used for brain disease or brain damage, can be a complication of the flu, according to the CDC.

"They said she had significant brain damage. They said our child might not ever wake up, and if she did, she might not ever be the same," Phillips said.

The family found out December 31 that Jade wasn't just suffering from encephalopathy, but acute necrotizing encephalopathy. ANE is a rare type of encephalopathy usually caused by a viral infection.

After being prescribed steroids, the swelling went down in Jade's brain. Eventually, after nearly two weeks, Jade woke up.

But the little girl still has a long way to go in her recovery. While Jade's eyes are fine, her brain suffered damage from the flu that left her blind — until this month.

"It affected the part of her brain that perceives sight, and we don't know if she's going to get her vision back," said Dr. Theresa Czech, Jade's neurologist said back in January. "In about three to six months from now we'll know. Whatever recovery she has at six months, that's likely all she's going to get."

Her parents are thankful their child is alive, and are using the ordeal to remind others how important it is to get their flu shot.

"If I can stop one child from getting sick, that's what I want to do," Phillips told CNN. "It's terrible to see your child suffer like this."