When Nevaeh Hernandez arrived home from school on Feb. 9 of last year with a headache and fever, her parents took her to an area hospital to be examined. According to the Hernandez family, Nevaeh had a fever of 104 degrees.
She was seen by a nurse practitioner, then was sent home within a few hours after flu and strep tests came back negative. She was not seen by a doctor, and did not receive a diagnosis before being sent home.
Her symptoms worsened overnight. Stephanie Conteron, Nevaeh’s mother, knew something was wrong when. She took Nevaeh to a different hospital, Palisades Medical Center, the next morning.
Within an hour of arriving at Palisades, she was diagnosed with the H1N1 strain of influenza. Her fever peaked at 106 degrees. She suffered four seizures.
Nevaeh Hernandez died at 10:41 a.m. on Feb. 12, 2018. She was six years old.
Residents of North Hudson gathered at Braddock Park in North Bergen, not letting the 25- degree weather and wet snowfall dampen their resolve. They said they wanted their positive energy to help lessen the pain of last year’s tragedy.
Dozens of people took part in a remembrance walk around Woodcliff Lake in memory of Nevaeh. She was one of five reported pediatric fatalities in New Jersey attributed to last year’s flu virus.
Neveah survived for just over three days after she first reported feeling sick. Her family says that the memorial walk was in large part an effort to raise awareness about how fast-acting and serious the flu can be in children.
Funds for flu awareness
Participants raised funds for the End-FLUenza project, which promotes awareness of the importance of getting the most recent flu vaccination every year, as well as educating children and adults on safety measures known to decrease the chance of spreading the virus.
The organization uses funds for remembrance walks, school assemblies, and to provide free flu vaccinations for people without health insurance. The goal is to increase vaccination rates and educate people on what to do if they feel sick.
The organization’s founder, Rebecca Hendrick’s, flew from Washington State to help with the arrangements.
“I lost my five-year-old, Scarlet Taylor, to the flu,” Hendricks said. “I’ve been a founding member since 2015, after losing my daughter. At first I thought she was the only one on the face of the earth, but it’s more common than not. I realized that there was information people needed to know, but they weren’t looking for it. We’re here to support the families of children who died of the flu. This is something that’s felt by the community as a whole.”
Survivors and supporters
Hendricks said that many joined the organization after experiencing similar loss, while others joined after surviving life-threatening cases of the flu.
“We invite anyone who wants to help spread the message,” Hendricks said.
Nevaeh’s parents, North Bergen residents Stephanie Conteron and Gabriel Hernandez, both work in health care. EMS, police, and other first responders came from West New York and Union City to support the cause.
“I know Nevaeh is with us today,” Nevaeh’s grandmother said, before the crowd observed a moment of silence at 10:41 a.m. to mark the time of Nevaeh’s passing.
Volunteers dressed as characters from Disney’s “Frozen,” Nevaeh’s favorite movie, and spent time with some of Nevaeh’s classmates and friends who were on hand.
After the walk, participants had lunch and held a raffle benefiting the End-FLUenza project in the township’s recreation center. North Bergen EMS supplied free flu vaccinations to anyone who requested one.
Protecting those around you
Nevaeh had gotten a flu vaccine just months prior to contracting H1N1. But the vaccine was not effective in her case. Those most at risk of dying from the flu are babies, children, seniors, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system. H1N1, the most dangerous strain of the flu virus, is covered by standard flu vaccines.
New Jersey is experiencing another spike in flu rates which started at the beginning of January. According to state Department of Health reports, a child in central Jersey was the first flu fatality this season.
Flu vaccines do more than protect those who receive them. The shots lower the chance of spreading the virus to others. Anyone with a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit should stay home until the body temperature has been normal for 24 hours. Proper hand washing is another way to reduce chances of spreading infection.
To find out more about the End-FLUenza project, or to donate to the organization, visit endfluenzaproject.org.
For updates on this and other stories keep checking www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.