A New Hampshire mother of four died in an ambulance just three days after being diagnosed with the flu. Though a physician prescribed her an antiviral medication to fight the infection, she reportedly turned down the medication.
Amanda Franks tested positive for influenza on January 14 after experiencing a fever. The 38-year-old was given a prescription for Tamiflu, the FDA-approved antiviral medication that can cause nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Yet, her doctor reportedly told her the side effects were “worse” than the flu itself, and after hearing this, Franks decided to skip the treatment altogether, according to her sister.
“She said they prescribed her Tamiflu, but the doctor said the side effects were a lot of times worse than the flu,” Franks’ sister, Jolene King, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “So she decided not to take it.”
Franks then returned home with a plan to rest and hydrate.
“Her words exactly were, she was just going to keep fighting it on her own,” King said.
The next morning, Franks was found unconscious in her bathroom by her family, and she was rushed to Monadnock Community Hospital, near her home in New Ipswich. Doctors there believed Franks passed out due to her fever running high, and she was sent back home after receiving anti-nausea medication and fluids, according to the Union Leader.
By Tuesday night, Franks—a mother of four children, ages 7 to 19—was vomiting once again. She was taken to the emergency room the next morning.
That’s when doctors discovered Franks had gone into septic shock, and they quickly planned to transfer her to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon by way of helicopter. But poor weather conditions kept the aircraft grounded, and while Franks was en route to the medical center in an ambulance, her heart stopped. Paramedics were not able to revive her.
“It really happened very fast,” King said. “It was very abrupt and very shocking… Her husband is just heart-broken.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe to help with Franks’ funeral expenses, and it has so far has raised more than $7,000.
“There are just no words,” King told the Union Leader. “There are just no words to how scary and shocking it is.”
Edith Mirzaian, an associate professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, says Tamiflu is one of the primary medications used to treat influenza. Though it has rare adverse side effects, it has proven to be effective.
“The serious side effects of Tamiflu are rare,” Mirzaian tells PEOPLE. “The common ones people experience aren’t that bad, such as a headache, nausea and vomiting. The severe side effects are cardiac abnormalities, but we would mostly see that in people who have an underlying condition.”
For anyone with Type A or B influenza, Mirzaian says Tamiflu is highly recommended—though it is most effective when taken as soon as possible after symptoms arise.
“It has dramatic results in relieving symptoms of the flu, and it basically makes the duration of the flu a lot shorter and it works very well at quickly getting the virus out of the body,” she adds.
While emergency rooms across the country grapple with one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory, Mirzaian hopes everyone follows the “universal precautions” to avoid spreading disease: washing your hands throughout the day, contacting your medical provider and not going to work or school if you feel symptoms, getting adequate rest and staying hydrated.
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One of the most important things people can do is to get the flu vaccination, which the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) reports can lessen the chance that someone catches the virus by 10 to 60 percent (though it doesn’t guarantee that someone will not catch the flu)
“It’s important and highly recommended by the entire medical community, and most of the time, it will provide you enough protection,” Mirzaian says, emphasizing the importance of stopping the spread of the disease. “Influenza infection is so dangerous and so severe. If we don’t protect our selves, then we can get sick and won’t be able to take care of our families, or, we can get it ourselves and pass it on to them. We all have to be protected for that reason.”