Family says flu a factor in Cottage Grove girl's death

A family in Cottage Grove is dealing with the unimaginable grief of losing their child. They say two-year-old Serenity Torgerson died less than a week ago from complications from the flu.

Loving to sing and dance, two-year-old Serenity was known for her contagious smile. 

“We got to enjoy the holidays and everything took a big turn on January 1,” said Janell Torgerson, Serenity’s mom. 

Born with Down syndrome and a heart defect, at her young age, Serenity survived two heart surgeries before her first birthday. She was looking forward to becoming a big sister in May. But New Year’s Day Serenity woke up to slight discomfort, which her parents associated with nothing more than teething.

“It just hit fast and hard,” said Matt Torgerson, Serenity’s dad. “One moment snuggling to something doesn’t seem right to now she’s struggling to breathe - in a matter of minutes.”

Doctors at Children's Hospital performed CPR on Serenity for an hour, which was followed by days of various life-saving attempts. A stroke followed by a brain herniation ultimately took her life last Thursday.

“What happened to our New Year’s… it just changed in a heartbeat,” said Matt. 

Janell and Matt were shocked when test results came back confirming Serenity had the flu.

“There were no signs of influenza or her being sick,” said Janell. 

“That’s the scariest thing to have our child pass from anything, but something so uncontrollable,” said Matt. 

With widespread flu across the state and reports the vaccine is roughly 30 percent effective, the Torgersons have no idea where Serenity might have come in contact with the virus. They say she did not get a flu shot this year. They hope others who experience symptoms will respect them.

“The seriousness of what the symptoms truly are and this influenza, don’t bring them out if they are showing symptoms, don’t risk other people,” said Janell.

Especially for those with compromised immune systems, the flu can be a matter of life or death. 

“We just never want anyone to stop saying her name or sharing her story,” said Janell.

“Just remember to hug and kiss your child as much as possible and just know that anything is possible,” said Matt.

Despite reports the effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine being less than ideal, experts continue to remind us all it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Even if you still contract the virus, the vaccine can help reduce the severity of those symptoms.