Outpouring of support as Winnipeg teen dies from flu complications

Friends, family and classmates are mourning after a Winnipeg teen died from flu complications.

Blaine Ruppenthal, 17, a Grade 12 student at Kelvin High School, was rushed to St. Boniface Hospital on Jan. 7 after suffering cardiac arrest twice. He was put into an induced coma and received hypothermic therapy, but died Monday, according to the Winnipeg School Division.

Radean Carter with the Winnipeg School Division told 680 CJOB the teen died of complications from Influenza A.

“It is just so tragic. It’s just hard to believe that a student would get sick with something you’d normally expect them to be back within a week, and they’re not going to be coming back,” said Carter.

“The biggest shock, of course, is that it’s somebody in their teen years.

“You really don’t expect that to happen with somebody healthy in their teen years.

“It’s usually the elderly that are affected by death with the flu.”

A Facebook group, Prayers for Blaine Ruppenthal, created to support the teen while he was still undergoing treatment has received an outpouring of support in light of his death.

“He was one of the sweetest most genuine people I have ever met. It was really a pleasure to have known him over the years of high school,” posted a Facebook user who said she was a former classmate of his.

“It was really a pleasure to have known him over the years of high school.”

Family members, former teachers, Ruppenthal’s air cadet commanding officer, and local politicians were among those offering condolences to his family.

In a letter sent to parents of Kelvin students, the high school’s principal Maria Silva said counsellors are being made available to support students and staff affected by Ruppenthal’s death.

“It is hoped that by providing a supportive place for expressions of grief, the students and staff will be able to understand and cope with the loss,” the letter said.

“Just as we have encouraged students to express their feelings here at school, we also encourage you to discuss the death at home. Listening to your child and acknowledging their feelings will be helpful.”

Ruppenthal was on track to graduate from Kelvin this spring.

Manitoba Health told Global News last week that influenza and respiratory illnesses such as head and chest colds have taken an early hold in Manitoba.

Influenza A is one of two strains of the flu currently circulating in Manitoba, with 12 per cent of patients testing positive earlier this month, health officials said.

Statistics from Manitoba Health show one other person has died and more than 30 have been hospitalized due to flu since September.

The department says the number of people visiting emergency rooms in the last week of 2019 was the highest in three years.

A memo to staff at St. Boniface Hospital last week says this year is unusual in that three flu viruses have been peaking at the same time.

Manitoba Health urges people to get annual flu vaccines, especially those who are young, elderly and have chronic health conditions.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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