For one family in Calvert County, Maryland, Valentine’s Day will always be connected to heartbreak: the day when they lost their 8-year-old girl.
Kinsley Sandvik had a vibrant laugh and, according to her mother, everyone was her friend.
“If you met her, you fell in love with her. No one was a stranger to this child, not even the pizza man,” said mom Shannon Sandvik. “I’d say, ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ and she’d say, ‘I’m not,’ and I’d say, ‘OK, well, what’s his name?’ And she’d say, ‘The Pizza Man.’”
Shannon Sandvik said her daughter was an amazing athlete, playing on a travel soccer team three or four days a week.
The young girl was the life of the party and a ball of energy. She was never sick — until this month.
On Thursday, Feb. 6, Kinsley Sandvik wasn’t feeling well. So, her mom took her to the pediatrician.
“She tested positive for the flu,” strain B, Shannon Sandvik said. “They gave her doses of Tamiflu.”
By Sunday, the young girl was feeling a bit better, playing with the family on game night and jumping around. She seemed almost back to normal.
But, by Monday morning, she was sick again.
“She woke up and she was crying again, ‘My head hurts, my chest hurts.’ She was back to having a fever,” her mother said.
So, they went to the pediatrician again. This time, the doctor sent them to an Anne Arundel County emergency room, just to be safe.
“They did everything there. They did chest X-rays. They did blood work. They gave her fluids,” Shannon Sandvik said. “She walked out of the ER with, maybe they said, a little bit of something in the top of her left lung that pretty much came normal with the flu.”
But, that night, Kinsley Sandvik got worse, and by 10 a.m. Tuesday, she was having a hard time breathing and started to cough up blood. Her mother took her to CalvertHealth Medical Center, the nearest hospital to their home.
“She went from walking into Calvert to barely able to keep her eyes open,” the mother said.
The girl’s condition continued to worsen. Within hours, she was intubated and transferred to Children’s National Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
“By the time we got to the PICU at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, she was full-blown blood infection, septic shock,“ Shannon Sandvik said.
The doctor told the worried mother that the flu had compromised Kinsley Sandvik’s immune system and, after that, she had picked up an infection that her body was struggling to fight.
By Tuesday night, the hospital staff had to resuscitate the girl and put her on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation device, a machine that operates as an artificial lung and heart pump with the hopes of allowing the body’s organs to repair themselves without being under stress.
By Thursday, her lungs weren’t getting any better, her heart wasn’t getting any better, and now, her mother was told Kinsley Sandvik’s kidneys were going to fail within the next 24 hours.
“Her hands and feet were black. She would have lost those if she survived. She suffered a stroke somewhere in the midst of all of this,” said Shannon Sandvik. “By Friday, we had to make the choice to take her off the machine, and she passed at 3:10 p.m. on Valentine’s Day.”
In the wake of her loss, Shannon Sandvik has words of advice for other parents: “Trust your gut as a mom. I think she could have gone sooner if I did not make the choice to take her a bunch of times, no matter what anybody said.”
On a lighter note, the mom also said that being the subject of a story on the radio would have made her daughter very happy: “She would have loved this. I’m not even kidding. She wanted to be famous so bad. She was a star.”