Mother who lost child to flu last year reflects on recent epidemic

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PORT ORCHARD, Wash. – The severe flu season has claimed the life of a Pierce County child. It hits close to home for another local family, whose 12-year-old died from the flu almost one year ago.

The candles outside a Port Orchard home are burning for 12-year old Piper Lowery. Monday marked one year since the flu took Piper’s life and forever changed her family.

So news that the flu has claimed another child this year in Pierce County shook Piper's mother, Pegy Lowery, to the core.

“It just brought back that same feeling when she died,” said Lowery. “I feel so sorry for that family.”

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department says a child under the age 10 is among the 17 flu-related deaths in the county. Officials say the child had underlying health issues but wouldn’t say if they had gotten a flu shot.

As for Piper, she hadn’t gotten a shot.

“Before the months she passed away, it was a choice of a shot that she needed and the flu shot,” said Lowery. “So the deal was if you get this one that we’d skip the other.”

Lowery says that’s the one thing she’d do differently, if she had the chance.

“If you get the flu, even if you get the flu shot, it lowers your chance of death of up to 80 percent," Lowery said. "To me, finding that out and being educated into that, that right there changed my whole view of being optional.”

Now Lowery is using her loss to educate others, so no other parent feels the pain she feels every single day.

“It’s the most gut-wrenching feeling, the best way I can describe when Piper died is how it ripped out of my chest,” said Lowery. “As the days and years go by, my main focus is trying to continue her legacy, trying in different ways to educate the best I can.”