SAN JOSE, Calif. - 40-year-old Katie Oxley Thomas, a San Jose mother of three lived a healthy lifestyle. She ran marathons and did yoga. Her family never expected her to die from the flu.
"It was very shocking for us. We just thought she was going to leave the hospital in a couple of days and come home," said Oxley Thomas' stepmother Adrienne Oxley
On January 4th, just days after her diagnosis, Katie Oxley Thomas died at Good Samaritan Hospital from Influenza B. Doctors believe the flu, lead to pneumonia, which lead to septic shock.
Her family rushed to bring her children to the hospital for her final moments.
"We went and picked them up at 4:30 and by the time we got back at 5 they were at code red and trying to save her. But she was already gone," said her father Walt Oxley
"She knew we were there. We were telling her we love her that she could fight this and she could just get through this, come home," said Adrienne Oxley. "But she couldn't fight it. She just couldn't fight it."
Across California, at least 42 people younger than 65 have died this flu season, five of them in Santa Clara County.
The family isn't sure why Katie's case was so severe. They think she might have had a flu shot but aren't certain.
They wondered whether a hand injury from an August car accident could have played a role in compromising her immune system. But doctor's told them that was unlikely.
"The one doctor said I've never seen anything progress like this. He said this is just incredible," said Walt Oxley.
And that's why Katie's family is speaking out: both to honor the vibrant, joyful woman they lost but also to shed light on the dangers of the flu.
They hope others will get the flu shot. And if they do get sick, that they won't underestimate the threat.
"Most of us get the flu and recover from it and a handful of people every year don't. And you just don't think it's going to be your daughter. But you really want to take it serious," her father said.
The family has ordered an independent autopsy but won't get the results for several weeks. They have also set up a Wells Fargo account to help the three children she leaves behind. Any one who wants to share memories of Katie can do so at LastingMemories.com.