Community mourns flu-related death of St. Louis Park teen

1:52 PM, Jan 9, 2013   |    comments
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ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. - The hard lessons of life and death found their way into the hallways of St. Louis Park High School Tuesday.

14-year-old Carly Christenson died from complications from the flu Tuesday afternoon. She was a popular student who played on the junior varsity basketball team.

"It's a shock for everyone here," said Assistant Principal Scott Meyers. "Late in the day, students started to get notification via text messages and voice mails."

Christenson has been hospitalized for days, but her pastor tells KARE 11 shortly before 1 p.m. she passed away.

She did get the flu shot, but it's unclear if she was dealing with other health issues. But by all accounts, she was a healthy teenage girl loved by many.

"We're kind of dealing with the shock right now and having students just have a place where they can kind of meet with somebody, either a counselor or friend or a trusted teacher," said Meyers.

Meyers says extra counselors are available for students or staff who may need them.

Family members were too grief stricken to comment, but Christenson is described by her friends as a fun-loving, talented student, and a good friend.

"(She) obviously was a very wonderful young lady," he said.

The Minnesota Health Department says this would be the fifth flu-related death this season. But a spokesperson says a number of possible flu-related deaths are currently being investigated and expects that number to double when the updated numbers are released later this week.

Christenson is the second teen to die due to complications from the flu in Minnesota in the last couple weeks. 17-year-old Max Schwolert was visiting from Texas over the holidays when he passed, but because he was from out of state he is not part of the official state count.

"It hit us really hard this year," said Andre Harnitz, head wrestling coach at Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Area School.

Officials say the hardest hit area is the south central part of the state. That's where Harnitz coaches high school wrestling for the Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial area, which is near Mankato.

He canceled the wrestling meet Tuesday night because so many kids on the team are out sick, including his own son. He says it was the first time the wrestling team had to cancel a meet because of the flu.

"Just off of our varsity squad, we have 14 guys on varsity, eight of them were sick," said Harnitz.

He says his son has experienced vomiting and respiratory problems, among other symptoms.

It is another example of a state, and for that matter a country gripped by illness with some unfortunately dealing with more than just that.

"We're feeling supported here, but obviously it's a tough time," said Meyers.

Christenson's pastor at Westood Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park posted the note below on the church's Facebook page.

Dear Friends,
Carly Christensen died today at 12:40 PM surrounded by her family.
The Wednesday evening service tomorrow will include a time of prayer and candle-lighting to remember Carly and to proclaim the promise of Christ, the promise of hope and light that the darkness cannot overcome. All are welcome.
Funeral plans are being made for Saturday. We will send out an update with the time.
Our prayers and deepest sympathies are with Carly's parents Sean and Sandy Christensen, her brother Wyatt, and many beloved friends.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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