Kevin and Jessica Puckett say they’re heartbroken over the loss of their youngest daughter and want to share their story in hopes some good can come of their tragedy.
"I was worried about boys, I was worried about car accidents, I was worried about so many things, the last thing I was worried about was her being a foot and a half away from her and not being able to save her," says a heartbroken Kevin.
Six-year-old Taylor Marie Puckett was friendly, caring and full of energy.
"Her personality shined from the beginning, Tayor Marie was an amazing little girl, she stole everybody’s hearts," says her mom Jessica, with a smile on her face. Jessica is wearing Taylor’s signature accessory, a kitten ears headband.
Then on December 11, 2017 she got sick.
"She came home from school and said, ‘Mommy my throat hurts, my head hurts and I feel hot,’" says Jessica adding that for the next couple of days she kept Taylor home from school and on fluids and rest. It seemed to be working, her fever was down. Still, dad Kevin, kept watch that night, and slept next to her.
"I went in there and they both looked so peaceful, I’m like, ‘aww daddy fell asleep next to his daughter,’ and he goes, ‘She finally fell asleep about an hour and a half ago,’" but she says something was off, "and I touched her cheek and it was cold and I started shaking her and she wouldn’t move," she says with tears and disbelief.
She called 911 while Kevin did CPR. They thought things couldn’t get worse, but they say what followed was a nightmare that haunts them to this day.
"(Police) separated us and not cared about us getting to the hospital or have any last moments with whatever was left of our daughter their only concentration was on questions," says Kevin.
Both parents say they understand police officers have a job to do and their great respect for that kept them there but want the Murrieta Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to take a look at this policy, one of the reasons they wanted to share their story.
"Other detectives wouldn’t let me leave cause they said they still needed to questions from us and I wish to God I would have said you can ask me questions at the hospital cause I need to be in the ambulance with my daughter," says Jessica through tears.
The coroner’s report confirmed Taylor Marie died of Influenza A. They say while she did not get a flu shot because of a condition that caused swelling, they did everything as parents they should have done but others don’t and that spreads the potentially deadly virus. That’s why they want employers to take a look at their sick leave policy and be more flexible during flu season.
"I see people sending their kids sick to school because they can’t afford to stay home and because of that people like us are losing their children," says Jessica adding maybe there’s a few changes doctor’s offices can put in place too during this time of high demand and stretched dollars.
Kevin says he never imagined something as common as the flu would take his little girl, "I was always there, I was there for everything I didn’t miss anything, I spent the night next to her everyone told me I did everything right but within an hour and a half God took her from me."
We reached out to the Murrieta Police Department, they sent us this statement:
Words cannot express our heartfelt sympathies to the entire Puckett family, friends and loved ones for the sudden loss of Taylor Puckett on the morning of December 14, 2017. Most of our officers, including the ones who responded to the Puckett’s home, are parents themselves. We cannot even begin to imagine the circumstances of losing a child and the grief Kevin and Jessica Puckett and the rest of their family are going through.
When our officers and paramedics arrived, they had to quickly administer live-saving efforts while simultaneously determine why Taylor was unresponsive. Our officers needed to ask questions from those who were with Taylor in an effort to provide accurate medical treatment information to paramedics; as well as rule out any neglect or abuse. Because two paramedics were performing life-saving CPR efforts to Taylor in the back of the ambulance while en-route to the hospital, there was no room to accommodate anyone else.
None of the responding officers immediately anticipated Taylor would not survive her illness. It was not our officers’ intentions to purposefully deprive Kevin or Jessica to be with their daughter in her last moments. This was a very sad and sensitive call for service that had an emotional impact on all of our involved Dispatchers, Police Officers, Detectives and Paramedics. We truly understand and empathize with their concerns and we will be reviewing how we handle future similar incidents.
Our thoughts and prayers continue for the Puckett family.
Captain Dennis Vrooman
We also reached out to the Riverside County Disease Control, they say there are more cases of the flu this year compared to last year and more deaths. So far 6 people under the age of 64 have died from flu related illness. They say it’s important to practice good hygiene especially hand washing during the flu season, get a flu shot and stay home when you’re sick with the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control advises people who are very sick should be treated with antiviral drugs as soon as possible.
Click here for more tips: FLU SEASON