St. Louis Park girl, 14, dies of flu complications - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

St. Louis Park girl, 14, dies of flu complications

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Carly Christenson Carly Christenson
ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (KMSP) -

Family and friends are mourning the loss of a 14-year-old St. Louis Park girl who died from complications of the flu despite being vaccinated in August.

Pastor Tania Haber, of the Westwood Lutheran Church, confirmed that Carly Christenson passed away after spending days in intensive care.

"She lit up the room," Haber said of Christensen, who was going through confirmation with the congregation.

News of Christenson's passing broke at the school on Tuesday afternoon while students were in class, and her friends say many are still in shock.

Christenson played basketball on the freshman-sophomore team, and that team met after school to remember how their teammate helped hype them up in the locker room and on the bench.

"Personally, it hasn't hit me. It's going to hit me tonight when I have a group thing with my team," Emily Estep told FOX 9 News outside the school.

All girls' basketball games that were scheduled to take place at St. Louis Park High School against Fridley have been canceled as her teammates cope with the loss.

"When we all found out, there were so many tears," said Ellen Hynes. "It brought everyone down. She was in everyone's prayers and thoughts."

Christenson was admitted to Children's Hospital on Christmas Eve with a severe case of the flu, where she spent 16 days fighting for her life in intensive care.

Patsy Stinchfield, the director of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital, described Christenson's condition as "gravely ill" on Jan. 3, adding that equipment was being employed to support her heart, lung and kidneys while the teen struggled with severe flu symptoms.

"She was super energetic," Estep recalled. "She could get me so pumped on the bench. I have so many memories of laughing, inside jokes on the bench."

Teammates say Christenson often them hyped up for games and practices by dancing, smiling and staying positive. Assistant Principal Scott Meyers said her lively spirit is part of the reason why her death is so surprising to many.

"At this age, students definitely have a feeling of, 'This couldn't happen,'" he explained. "It's going to take many of them by surprise."

Meyers told FOX 9 News the school will provide support and counselors for as long as they are needed.

Estep said the team has already dedicated their last two wins to Christenson, and she now plans to push for dedicating the season to her.

Family members told FOX 9 News Christenson had received this year's flu vaccine, but Dr. Michael Osterholm, of the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health says those who have gotten a flu shot should know they are not 100 percent effective.

"You should never assume you are not going to get the flu just because you've been vaccinated," he said.

Osterholm recently created a study focusing on the need for better flu vaccines because current flu shots are only effective about 59 percent of the time, and they work better when more people get them. He estimates it could cost $1 billion to develop a more effective vaccine .

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