When Liz Gallagher’s daughter Katherine fell ill, they put it down to exhaustion and thought she would recover with a little rest. But her symptoms grew worse and Katherine was prescribed antibiotics. Then, thinking that her daughter was at home resting, just days later Liz received an unexpected call from Katherine’s boyfriend. Weeks before her 28th birthday, Katherine was dead.
For all appearances, Katherine Gallagher was a fun-loving and healthy 27-year-old. Described as fearless and bright, Katherine graduated Boston University and loved to dance and skydive. She worked as a hostess in a local brewery and by all accounts was a positive influence on those around her.
Katherine started to feel unwell on Friday, December 1, 2017. That day she left work early and headed home to Tustin, California, where she lived with her boyfriend. Katherine had been suffering with a fever and had developed cold sweats and body aches. Furthermore, she was also experiencing diarrhea and nausea.
According to Liz, her daughter believed that she was simply worn out. However, with a bit of rest for the remainder of the day, Katherine thought she would shake off whatever was making her feel unwell. But, like any mom in her shoes, Liz was concerned about her daughter’s well-being.
“I asked her if she would like to go to the doctor, and, as a typical young person, she said she was fine and that she was just exhausted and needed sleep,” Liz recalled to People in January 2018. So, Liz let her daughter rest and checked in on her again the next day.
“She felt the same way on Saturday when I talked to her,” Liz continued, “but by then she really had an issue with nausea, dizziness and coughing.” With concern for her daughter’s condition growing, then, Liz decided to take Katherine to urgent care.
Unfortunately, though, at the care center there was an issue with Katherine’s medical insurance. But Liz insisted that her daughter required urgent treatment so the pair stuck around – health comes first, after all. And eventually, Katherine was prescribed antibiotics and placed on an IV to stay hydrated.
The following day, Katherine seemed to improve, despite still suffering problems with her stomach and back. Moreover, her cough was also continuing to trouble her. By Tuesday, however, Katherine’s symptoms had worsened again, and Liz’s concern grew once more.
“I wanted her to go to my doctor because she had never been to her doctor since she had never really been sick,” Liz told People. “We chatted by text several times that day, and it even got a little heated.” But Liz only wanted her daughter to get better.
“She’s writing back in capital letters telling me that I should just let her take the medicine, get sleep and she’d be better,” Liz went on. “She wanted to give the antibiotic a chance to work.” So, perhaps reluctantly, Liz backed off a little and allowed her daughter to get some rest.
Liz received a text from her daughter at around 3:20 p.m. that day saying that she was resting up. Liz replied, reiterating the need for sleep but asking that Katherine touch base as soon as she woke up. It never happened. Katherine’s text would be the last time Liz heard from her daughter.
Indeed, the next call Liz received was from her daughter’s boyfriend some hours later. He’d come home from work and discovered Katherine lying unconscious on the bathroom floor. As a result, he’d called 911 and then performed CPR on his girlfriend until paramedics showed up.
As Liz described to People, “After about ten minutes, he said to me, ‘They’ve called it.’ It was a total and complete shock.” There was nothing more that first responders could do. On December 5, 2017, around three weeks before she turned 28, Katherine was pronounced dead.
At first, Katherine had displayed classic flu-like symptoms. But as the days wore on, she subsequently developed severe acute bronchial pneumonia, a complication that can arise from the flu virus. And now, during a particularly deadly flu season, Liz wants what happened to her daughter to act as a warning to others.
In an interview with CBS Los Angeles in January 2018, Liz explained, “I’m hoping that if young people hear this they will realize that [the flu] is not to be trifled with and that they’re not invincible. Whatever it is that’s going around is really dangerous.” Indeed, deadly in some cases.
The flu season of 2017 through 2018 has been listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “moderately severe.” In fact, since the fall of 2017 around 40 people below the age of 65 have died from the flu virus in California alone. And the CDC has warned that things could deteriorate.
Liz wants people to be aware that, as well as displaying the classic symptoms of flu, Katherine also experienced breathing difficulties and extreme dizziness. And although hospitals have been swamped with people suffering from the flu, Liz would encourage anyone displaying symptoms similar to her daughter’s to go straight to the ER.
“[Katherine] was strong-willed and felt like she was doing what was necessary,” Liz told People. “She went to urgent care, she got antibiotics, she thought she was doing her best.” Moreover, the CDC claims a flu shot can reduce chances of contracting the virus by 10 to 60 percent. Katherine, however, hadn’t had the injection.
“It’s devastating for us,” Liz continued. “[Katherine] is our only child. It is just unbelievable to lose her to something like this. It happened so fast and she’s gone. She’s just… gone.” It’s the “what ifs” that plague Liz today – what if she’d taken her daughter to the ER instead of urgent care?
Liz’s message? “Don’t put off going to the doctor when you get sick,” she says. “Get help. If I would have been able to convince [Katherine] to go Friday, would it have made a difference? I just don’t know, and that’s what is agonizing. Don’t be complacent and don’t think you’re invincible. Don’t think this can never happen to you. This is very serious.”