Family looking for answers after 17-year-old dies suddenly

- A West Valley family is searching for answers, after their 17-year-old son suddenly collapsed and died.

Doctors confirmed 17-year-old Jonah Smith tested positive for the flu, but did not show any flu-like symptoms. Smith's parents said he had no previous medical conditions, nor did he exhibit any major symptoms of the flu.

It wasn't long after he told his sister that he felt sick that Jonah's heart suddenly stopped beating. Although Jonah didn't make it, his heart will continue to beat.

"He didn't look like he had a cold. He didn't act sick," recounted Jonah's mother, Gayle. "He was just Jonah, busy everywhere."

On December 29, Jonah's sister picked him up from work, and he collapsed in the backseat of her car. Jonah was flown to Phoenix Children's Hospital, where he was declared brain dead. Doctors told the family that Jonah's heart stopped beating, and he died because his brain wasn't receiving oxygen.

The exact cause of Jonah's sudden heart failure, however, remains a mystery.

"They did toxicology tests and at one point, they thought he may have had an undiagnosed heart problem. They determined that wasn't the case," said Gayle. "I can't even tell you how many tests they did. The only thing they know for sure is he had influenza 1a and pneumonia."

According to the state Department of Health, typically, influenza nearly always presents with symptoms such as fever, fatigue, sore throat, and body aches. Patients can be infected with the flu virus, and be contagious, and not know it. It takes one to four days before developing symptoms. 

For now, Jonah's family is enduring an agonizing wait for answers.

"I've already been told we may never know," said Gayle. "The medical examiner results won't be back for at least six months."

Gayle, however, does take some comfort in knowing that Jonah himself is a miracle that may save several other lives, as Jonah's family has donated his heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

"We did hear his heart went to an 11-year-old little boy," said Gayle.

Although FOX 10 Phoenix has reported on several possible flu-related deaths this flu season, the Arizona Department of Health services could only confirm to us that one child has died from the flu this season.

The state Department of Health Services does not have any recent records of the number of adults who have died from the flu, on an annual basis, but it is known that there are more than 11,000 flu cases confirmed so far in the state, which is an 857% increase from a year ago.

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