Love and Loss: a fatal case of the flu

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EDMOND, Okla. -- So far this flu season 17 Oklahomans have died of flu-related illness.

One Edmond family lost their 13-year-old son on the very same day he was diagnosed with influenza.

Riley Andrews, 13, had been under the weather for weeks.

He had a low-grade fever and felt crummy, according to his mom, Tami Andrews.

On Dec. 26, 2012, Tami Andrews finally insisted that Riley go see a family physician to figure out what was wrong.

Riley Andrews was a special kid; a talented artist and a skilled athlete.

He played catcher and second base on a team his father coached.

He loved the guitar.

Riley wanted more than anything to play college baseball for the OSU Cowboys.

The Andrews are a big blended family with five sons between them.

Tami has two sons and Frank has two sons; Riley was their only child together.

On the day Riley went to the doctor he tested positive for influenza.

The doctor prescribed Tamiflu for the family and sent them home.

The Andrews stopped at a video game store on the way home.

However, Riley took a serious turn for the worse while in the video game store.

He nearly collapsed and went out to wait in the car while Tami paid the clerk.

Riley never spoke again.

"I went back in to pay and I came back to my car and he was slumped over on my console. I yelled at him and he didn't move. I knew." Tami Andrews said. "I picked his head up and I could tell then that something was wrong because his lips were starting to turn blue. He wouldn't open his eyes."

Four hours later, Riley was dead.

Riley never complained of chest pain or shortness of breath.

Turns out, what may have started as the flu developed into Myocarditis, an infection of the heart muscle.

"Fortunately that's rare," OU Medicine Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Edward Overholt said. "The type that's an overwhelming infection is actually very unusual. When a tragedy like that happens catches everyone's attention because it's very unusual." 

The experts advise parents to pay attention when symptoms don't seem to be following the normal course.

For a typical case of the flu, the worst symptoms usually last between three and seven days.

"It's very unlikely that there's anything that this mom could have done," Dr. Overholt said. "Even if she had been the most hyper-vigilant, overprotective mom out there, she wouldn't have been able to avoid." 

According to Overholt, the test for Myocarditis is exhaustive and the disease rarely displays symptoms indicating how serious it can be.

The Andrews walk past reminders in every room of their son Riley, who they affectionately call "the boy with a golden heart."

They pray for strength, healing and comfort to endure the biggest loss of their lives.

Click here to learn more about Myocarditis.

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