A community remembers a Vian High School senior Wednesday who died unexpectedly after catching the flu last week.
Whitney Miller, 18, passed away on Friday, February 17. She participated in softball, track and cheerleading at Vian High School. She also was a three year starter for the Wolverines' girls basketball team and recently crowned homecoming queen.
"It was a bad, sad deal and out of the blue," said Coach John Mays, Miller's basketball coach. "She was so well liked, just a good kid that everybody liked. She always had a smile on her face."
According to Mays, Miller had severe asthma, but always had her inhaler with her. He said she felt sick at school Wednesday, February 15, and was taken to the emergency department later that evening. Mays said doctors confirmed she had contracted the flu, however by Friday, her illness worsened to pneumonia. Mays said her lungs filled up with fluid and collapsed. She died Friday around 2:30 p.m. at St. Edward Mercy Medical Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
"We're coping with it, taking it day by day, hour by hour," said Coach Mays. "My basketball girls, it's just up and down with them. There are good minutes and bad minutes, just a tragic deal. I can't even explain how much everybody has been upset over this."
Despite their loss, the girls' basketball team decided to play a scheduled Class 3A district game against Haskell on Saturday, in honor of Miller. They won, 64 to 52.
"They were going to try their best, no matter what and I had a couple of girls who hadn't play that well all year who really stepped up. So, they were playing for her," said Coach Mays. "That was an inspiration for them."
The school had extra counselors on hand this week to help students cope with their grief. Miller's funeral was Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. inside the school's gym.
According to the Oklahoma State Health Department, flu season is firing up late this year, with 23 flu-related hospitalizations reported so far since January 1.