For months, Marino Molina planned for his oldest daughter’s Sweet 16 birthday party in April.
Kira Molina, a 10th-grader at Newnan High School, had to be talked into having the celebration.
What she didn’t know was that her father planned to give her a car — the kind most kids only dream about owning.
He was secretly restoring a black-on-black 1964 Ford Falcon convertible.
He won’t get to see Kira in that car now.
The 15-year-old teen died from flu-related causes on Tuesday, according to Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk and her family.
She was one of the youngest Georgians to die of flu-related causes in what health officials are calling the worst influenza season in nearly a decade. It also claimed a 5-year-old Marietta boy, Channel 2 Action News reported. The station said Elijah Snook died Saturday at an area hospital after his family had taken him to the emergency room Jan. 13 with flu-like symptoms.
“To be honest, I don’t know how (I’m coping),” said Molina, who owns a carpet sales and installation business.
“I believed in God until this and that’s honest,” he said, his voice breaking. “I woke up and prayed every morning and now I’d like to have gloves and meet Him and pop Him in the mouth. There’s no way you take a child that’s willing to give anything to anybody. You don’t take children like that. If there is a God, where is he then? Why?”
Hawk said Wednesday that the flu affected Kira’s liver.
She died of liver failure “due to the flu.” He detailed the teen’s death in a statement.
He said the office received a call from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Tuesday reporting Kira’s death.
“Ms. Molina was not feeling well on January 25th, her parents took her to a clinic where she was tested for the flu and found to be negative. She was sent home,” the statement said. “Ms. Molina was still feeling ill on January 27th, but talking with friends.
“On January 28th parents found Ms. Molina unresponsive, 911 was called and she was transported to Piedmont Newnan Hospital Emergency Department and shortly transferred to CHOA.”
Hawk said a flu test was positive, and other tests revealed liver failure.
She died a a few hours after going to Atlanta.
“This was not an overdose of acetaminophen,” he said. “But liver failure due to influenza A.”
Marino Molina said Kira “loved animals. She would give you half of her food if she saw someone hungry. She would try to beat my dogs to the door when I came in and say, ‘Daddy’s home’. She’s been doing that since she was a baby.”
Kira has a younger sister named Chloe.
“I don’t know if she really knows what to think right now,” said Molina, who also has the flu.
Related: How the virus kills you
Her parents said that when Kira became ill, she had bloodshot eyes, congestion, a headache, sore throat, stomach pains, vomiting and severe dehydration. She could barely eat or drink.
Her mother took her to an urgent-care center. She was told 116-pound Kira had a sinus infection.
She hadn’t had the flu shot because, Marino Molina said, “it only has a 30 percent chance of working and this is not like your typical flu.”
Kira came home and went to school for a couple of days. Then she seemed to get worse.
Her parents planned one morning to her regular doctor “because she was getting worse and not better,” said her mother, Jacqueline Molina.
When she went into her daughter’s room, Kira was unresponsive.
She was still alive but cold to the touch.
They rushed her to the hospital about eight minutes away.
Her mother said she didn’t have any underlying health issues. “She was a perfectly healthy, 15-year-old girl,” she said.
Marino Molina thinks that along the way doctors missed critical signs.
Once she was stabilized they flew her to Atlanta.
She died the next morning.
“I never got to talk to her again,” he said.
He thinks he may have caught the virus after emptying Kira’s trash.
“It’s sneaky,” he said. “All I can tell you it’s sneaky. When it hit me I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t swallow my own saliva. When I went to the hospital they asked was I drunk,” he said. “One minute, 20 minutes, a hour you’re fine, Then all of a sudden I’m walking funny, I’m disoriented, my words won’t come to me.”
They warn other parents to take this bug seriously. If their children get sick “take them to the hospital. Don’t let it go back two or three days. It’s fast,” Jacqueline Molina said.
The Molina family has set up an account at Charter Bank in Newnan to help pay for expenses. The account is in Marino Molina’s name under the account #22537310.
Flu warning signs
Northside Hospital Emergency Services director, Chris Munn, offers these top three reasons people should go to the emergency room for treatment.
• Difficulty breathing or severe shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure (there have been reported cases of heart attack caused by flu); and sudden dizziness or confusion.
• With children, shortness of breath or consistent vomiting.
• Weakness or lethargy.
How the virus can harm you
According to Scientific American, the flu kills its victims this way:
“The short and morbid answer is that in most cases the body kills itself by trying to heal itself.”
As the virus spreads in the lungs and respiratory system, the body unleashes a counterattack, in which T-cells destroy the tissues that harbor the invading virus.
“In most healthy adults this process works, and they recover within days or weeks. But sometimes the immune system’s reaction is too strong, destroying so much tissue in the lungs that they can no longer deliver enough oxygen to the blood, resulting in hypoxia and death.”
Sometimes the lungs, weakened by the flu, become prey to another infection, often streptococcus, and the body is felled by bacterial overload.
Bo Emerson contributed to this story