SOUTH CAROLINA, N.C. - A South Carolina family is facing heartbreak right before the holidays after their three-year-old daughter died unexpectedly from a rare illness. Now, the mother is warning other parents that when your children get sick you can never be too careful.
Holly Rogers says her daughter Blakeli meant more to their family than she'll ever know.
"The closest thing to perfection that anyone could ever want to be around. she made every day better."
Holly says Blakeli was sassy but gentle, grateful, loving, and full of laughter.
"I think I'm taking it second by second. minute by minute, hour by hour."
In late November, the family took a vacation to Charlotte for a weekend of fun at Great Wolf Lodge.
"Sunday she developed a seal-like, croup-like cough."
Eventually, things got so bad they went to the ER where tests were run.
"Antibiotics, you know, chest x-rays, neck x-rays, that kind of thing."
She was told Blakeli had para-influenza and possibly pneumonia. Para-influenza causes upper respiratory issues and is seen a lot in young children.
"She just said, 'Mommy please help me,' and I don't know if I'll ever forget that entire phrase in my whole life."
Treatment didn't work and things declined quickly. Eventually, doctors suggested a breathing tube and life support. Holly was worried.
"I never expected to not bring my daughter home."
Blakeli passed away on December 2 from the upper respiratory complications. Death from para-influenza is rare and Holly says they're numb.
"I still don't feel like it's real. I feel like she's still on vacation and that she's gonna come back."
Her son, Jett, says he misses his sister more and more every day, but also told us the family is trying to stay strong for her.
Holly, meanwhile, has a message for all parents who might find themselves in a similar situation.
"Just be aware. and don't be afraid to take your children and get them checked, whether you feel like you're being hyper-vigilant, just make sure that you're doing what's in the best interest of your children."
Holly says family members are in town to help support them through this tragic time. She says the outpour of concern from the community has also been a blessing to her family.