Young mom dies after flu-like symptoms
‘Chris, there is something wrong’
Christopher Cielecki/Special to The Hamilton Spect

Jennifer Ryan, who died January 14 following a brief illness, with son Noah last year.
next play/pause pre 1/1Hamilton Spectator
ByJoanna Frketich
A 24-year-old Hamilton woman has died from an illness that started as flu-like symptoms.

Jennifer Ryan sought medical attention three times as her symptoms continued to get worse the week before she died, her husband says. She was sent home each time with medication until she finally got so sick, he called 911.

Two hospitals tried to save her life but it was too late. The previously-healthy mother of two boys died Jan. 14.

“I feel robbed,” her husband Christopher Cielecki said Thursday. “I feel totally let down.”

He asks himself if she’d still be alive if the emergency department had taken her symptoms more seriously.

“I understand the doctor was probably overworked and seeing so many people with flu,” said Cielecki. “But how could you just send her home? I want this doctor to remember her face.”

The family thought it was no big deal when Ryan and her two sons, 10-month-old Noah and four-year-old Nicholas, went to the family doctor Jan. 4 because all three had flu-like symptoms.

The doctor gave them medication and told them to come back if it got worse.

“The doctor said her and the kids were sick with the flu that was going around,” said Cielecki.

Hamilton has been in the midst of a massive peak of influenza A that started around Dec. 15. Seven people with flu have died, including two children, one adult and four seniors. It’s unknown if Ryan is included in those numbers.

By Jan. 8, Ryan was getting worse and had a high fever. Her husband took her to a walk-in clinic. At first, the clinic sent her home with antibiotics. But they soon called to say Ryan should go to a hospital instead.

She toughed it out for the night, thinking she didn’t need to go to the hospital for the flu. But the next day, she went to the emergency department at Hamilton General Hospital.

Her symptoms were getting worse: she had a high fever, what looked like blisters forming on her back, arms and hands, and her arms felt numb.

Her husband said she waited roughly three hours in the waiting room, got an X-ray and was sent home with antibiotics.

“This is a sad situation. We send our condolences to the family. Our heart goes out to them,” Dick McLean, vice-president of medical affairs and quality said in a statement. “We cannot comment on this case, but it is our practice to review patient care on an ongoing basis. We will share the results with the family.”

By Jan. 11, Ryan was throwing up, had diarrhea and needed help washing. She had to stop breastfeeding her baby.

“She said, ‘Chris there is something wrong,’” said Cielecki.

He called an ambulance and she was taken to Juravinski Hospital, given antibiotics intravenously and put in isolation.

Cielecki says the doctors told him she’d come just in time.

“She asked about the kids,” Cielecki recalled of their last conversation. “She said, ‘Chris don’t worry. Everything is fine.’”

Soon after she lost consciousness and never woke up. She was rushed to Hamilton General Hospital, which specializes in neurology. Her husband was told she died of meningitis, a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It’s unclear whether she also had influenza and pneumonia, which was the earlier diagnosis.

“We had so many dreams and plans,” says Cielecki. “We didn’t care if we lived in a cardboard box as long as we were together.”

He said she was always smiling and quick to help anyone who needed it.

“She had so much to live for,” said Dale Yates, her manager at Fortino’s House of Flowers in Fiesta Mall in Stoney Creek, where Ryan was a florist. “She was full of plans. It’s just so wrong.”

At no time did the young couple imagine the flu-like symptoms could be life-threatening.

“Never in my entire life did I think this could happen,” said Cielecki. “It just seems like a bad dream.”

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich


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