BATESVILLE, Ark. — The first signs of the flu coming on fill most of us with worry about how long it will take to power through and get back to work. Most people don't think of it as a life and death matter.
Jase Brooks thought that way until last week.
"My grandmother was relatively healthy. I mean, there was nothing abnormal about her," said Brooks, a 19-year-old college student from Southside, Ark. "I just picked up her ashes from the cremation place yesterday. It's crazy to me."
Brooks says Trina Randleas raised him and refers to his "nana" as his best friend on social media. He was the primary caretaker for his great-grandmother, who suffered from dementia.
Everyone missed the warning signs when Randleas first got sick.
"It started with just the typical sniffle, and it progressed toward difficulty breathing, and just horrible, horrible flu symptoms," Brooks said.
Quickly, it became too late. Randleas had her 61st birthday in the hospital on Feb. 1. A few days later, she was gone.
"It got to where she couldn't walk," Brooks said. "Then, it just got critical to the point where she had to be put on life support."
Brooks said he and his wife are still in shock. He took time off from classes to handle the arrangements; something he never figured he would have to deal with.
"Since you don't think about the flu as deadly, you don't think about making those arrangements," he said. "Things have just been hard."
Now, Brooks wants everybody to think of his grandmother as the sniffle arrives and the throat gets sore and the fever comes on. And think about what you're doing before you interact with others as you start to get sick.
"If you've got a sniffly nose, that could be something very serious," he said. "Even your small sickness can lead to huge sickness in medically fragile people. Some people are dying and it's very serious."
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