Serious heart condition contributed to Naperville teen's death.
From The Naperville Sun:
Serious heart condition had role in Fahle's death
October 11, 2009
By KATHY CICHON AND BILL BIRD Staff Writers
Naperville is still trying to come to grips with the shocking death of 14-year-old Michelle Fahle.
That's especially true in the tight-knit neighborhood along Wilshire Drive in the Will-O-Way area where the Naperville North freshman lived.
Michelle, who had H1N1 flu, passed away Thursday morning. On Saturday, the DuPage County coroner's office revealed that a previously undiagnosed serious heart condition strongly contributed to Fahle's death.
According to the health department, this is the first death in the county of someone with H1N1 flu. Fatalities due to influenza often happen when there are underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of severe illness, the health department said.
Neighbor Don Ellinghausen said when he saw emergency vehicles clustered outside the house, he assumed paramedics had been sent there to assist Michael Fahle, the father of the family, who has had some health issues in the past.
"Later, I was told: 'Michelle died this morning,'" Ellinghausen said. "I guess I yelled out, 'My God.'"
He said he has a hard time believing she is gone.
"And she was just a great little girl," Ellinghausen said. "We thought the world of her."
Dealing with tragedy
"At this very sad time, the entire District 203 community extends our deepest sympathy to the Fahle family on the death of their daughter, Michelle," District 203 Superintendent Mark Mitrovich said in a statement. "As superintendent, I know that the tragic loss of one of our students is something that affects all of us deeply. The Naperville North High School community is working to support the Fahle family. They will also be providing counseling services for students and staff as needed."
More than 1,700 people have joined a memorial page on Facebook set up by friends to honor Michelle's life. Students have also discussed ways to remember Michelle, and planned to wear black and either lime green or purple - Michelle's favorite colors - to school on Tuesday. The day was originally scheduled to be pajama day as part of North's homecoming week activities.
Adrian Rodriguez, a sophomore at Naperville North and a neighbor of Michelle's, said she was a special person.
"She was quieter" than many of her classmates, "but always very nice, always very kind to people," Rodriguez said.
Neighbor Eunice Lasky said Michelle was an only child, one she had known since infancy.
"They're a wonderful family, and Michelle was like their whole life," Lasky said from her front porch. "She was just a very sweet, gentle girl, always doing things with her mom and dad.
"We're just so shocked and so sad that this has happened to them," Lasky said, adding her hope "the neighbors can all pull together and support them and help them in any way we can."
Schools to be open
After reviewing the situation with District 203 officials, the health department has strongly recommended that district schools remain open. The department provided a letter for the district to share with students and parents. Classes will be held as scheduled Tuesday. Schools are closed Monday for Columbus Day.
To make things safer, the department recommended that surfaces that are frequently touched be cleaned, such as doorknobs, railings and keyboards.
"The school does not have to be scrubbed down wall to wall," said Dave Hass, spokesperson for the DuPage County Health Department.
Hass said people should stay calm.
"The H1N1 virus is all over. It's just one of those things that prevention is the course of action," he said.
Moment of silence
At Friday night's North football game at Glenbard East, the Glenbard East public address announcer asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence for Michelle Fahle.
"We haven't talked about it, simply because the kids weren't in school (Thursday) and the kids weren't in school (Friday) because of parent teacher conferences," Naperville North football coach Larry McKeon said. "So we won't address that whole situation until (Saturday)."
"Anytime any kid dies, it's awful," said Dave Sianta, who has a son who attends Naperville North.
"I can't fathom a 14-year-old dying like that, a healthy kid, you know. That's what's really scary is that virus can creep up that quick and hit you that hard and take you out."
Zaneta Gintautas, who has one son attending North, said she got "goose bumps" when she heard the initial report Friday. She was scared "because it could happen to anybody."
Dealing with the flu
When it's available, the health department is asking people to get vaccinated against the H1N1 flu. Similar to the seasonal flu, actions such as frequent washing of hands, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve and staying home if sick can prevent the spread of the germ.
"Those actions go a long way toward preventing the spread of any kind of influenza," Hass said.
According to Dr. Pete Shubel, vice chairman of the Emergency Department at Edward Hospital's Naperville campus and medical director at the Plainfield campus, flu activity is pretty widespread in the area right now.
"We are seeing a fair amount of flu-like illness at both the Naperville and Plainfield site," Shubel said.
News of Fahle's death has not prompted increased traffic to the emergency room though, with ER visits being the typical amount for this time of year, he said.
The emergency department is getting a lot of phone calls, though, from people worried about H1N1.
He said in the vast majority of cases, people contracting H1N1 get through it without too many problems.
Unfortunately, Michelle Fahle was not one of them.
"This case is tragic, but it's also very rare," he said. Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services