An Indiana church and the family of a 36-year-old youth pastor are now in mourning after she died from flu complications Monday.
The youth pastor, Allison Williams, who had worked at Reddington Christian Church in Seymour since 2008, died at Schneck Medical Center.
“RCC family, we are beyond saddened to announce the passing of Allison. Allison had the flu for the past few days and it seems she went septic. After arriving at the ER she went into cardiac arrest,” the church announced on Facebook Monday afternoon.
According to The Tribune, Reddington Christian Senior Pastor Scott Brown said that Allison lamented to him about getting the flu vaccine.
“She told me yesterday, ‘I don’t even know why I got a flu shot. It didn’t do me any good,’” Brown said.
According to the CDC, which conducts studies each year to determine how well the flu vaccine protects against flu illness, the effectiveness of the vaccine can vary. Recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.
In general, the agency notes, current flu vaccines tend to work better against influenza B and influenza A (H1N1) viruses but offers lower protection against influenza A (H3N2) viruses.
Williams' mother, Lisa Williams of Knoxville, Tennessee, reportedly noted on social media that her daughter got sick with the flu after attending the Tennessee Christian Teen Convention, which she has attended annually, from Jan. 10 to 12. Allison Williams was later diagnosed with Type A flu.
“When she came home, she wasn’t feeling well,” Pastor Brown told The Tribune. “A couple of days after being home, she had gone back to the doctor for the second time, and they said she had the Type A flu.”
A Healthline report explains that Type A flu can be found in many species, including humans, birds and pigs. As a result of the strain’s long list of potential hosts and its ability to genetically change over a short amount of time, Type A viruses are very diverse and can cause a pandemic.
Brown said after Williams got the flu, he and others kept checking on her.
“On Saturday, my wife and I brought out some medication for her, some Gatorade and things she needed,” he explained. “Then I checked her again on Sunday.”
At about 10:30 a.m., however, Brown said he noticed she had gotten worse.
“I said, ‘Allison, you need to let me take you to the ER,’ but she didn’t want to go,” he told The Tribune.
It wasn’t until around noon that she relented and by this time, she couldn’t even walk to Brown’s car without help.
“I got her to the car, took her directly to the Seymour hospital and we weren’t there three minutes and she went into cardiac arrest,” Brown recalled. “With going septic, that can happen so quickly, and the damage is done. The doctor said even if we had brought her in earlier, it wouldn’t have mattered.”
Since Allison’s death, he said he now has a different understanding of the dangers of the flu.
“You always hear about people dying of the flu, but you never really know anybody,” he said. “And all of a sudden, it happened here.”
On the church’s website, Williams is highlighted as a graduate of Johnson Bible College who majored in Bible and a specialty in Children’s Ministry. She oversaw the church’s nursery through high school-aged students. She had a passion for cooking, reading, traveling and her dog, Griffin, who died in December. She described Griffin as "the very best friend I've ever had."
“The kids had this profound respect for her,” Brown said. “She had this ability to command a room of teenagers and to get their attention and keep them in line. They loved her.”
“She was by far the best youth minister I have ever worked with. She was more than my co-worker. She and I were friends. Our friendship was always the foundation of what we did.”
The CDC estimates that between Oct. 19, 2020 and Jan. 11, 2020, there have been up to 17,000 flu-related deaths nationwide stemming from up to 18 million flu illnesses.