OWATONNA, Minn. (KMSP) – When Gwen Zwanziger’s daughter complained of a sore throat in December 2014, she didn’t think much of it.
Now, however, she knows better.
Shannon Zwanziger, a 17-year-old high school senior at the time, passed away after coming down with the flu, her organs failing just a short time after the disease took hold. The last picture Gwen and her husband Terry have of their daughter is at an Urgent Care clinic, a mask on her face, resting her head on her father’s shoulder.
“She said she was giving up,” Gwen said. “She said she was tired.”
Almost three years later, the family has been featured in a documentary about the spread of dangerous viruses and Gwen even authored a first-hand account of the family’s struggles on CNN’s website, racking up more than a million original visitors since it was posted.
Gwen and Terry Zwanziger are honoring their daughter’s memory by becoming what they call “disease warriors,” urging people to get vaccinated and promote awareness of the awful toll a virus like the flu can have–killing more than 10,000 Americans every year.
“That was the misconception I had of the flu,” Terry said. “I just thought flu made you sick. I get the shot every year mainly because I don’t want to get sick. I had no idea the numbers of people that die every year.”