Death Toll Rises in Flu Epidemic

The flu epidemic continues to claim the lives of children and teens across America. INSIDE EDITION reports.

A tearful mom talks about her 17-year-old son who was smiling on Christmas Day. By that evening, Max Schwolert was violently ill from the flu.

"He looked at me and said, 'I'm scared, mom. I said, 'I am too, Max.' He said, 'It'll be okay, I love you,' and that's the last thing he said coherently."

The six-foot-four Sunday School teacher, known for his gentle nature, died in a hospital four days later. One of many young flu victims, gone long before their time.

Perhaps Max's sister Jazmine put it best when she said, "I don't understand why such an amazing brother had to go."

Another of the flu's youngest victims is six-year-old Taheela Johnson, who woke up with fever and body aches. Her grandmother knew something was seriously wrong.

"I went to touch her and she said, 'Ow, that hurts! I'm sore," said her grandmother.

They rushed Taheela to a Dallas hospital, where she was diagnosed with the flu, given medication and sent home. But the next morning, she was gone.

"When I checked on her, she was not moving. And I shook her, and that's when I knew," said her grandmother.

The list goes on.

Lovable and vivacious six-year-old Avery Lane of Benton, Maine. Fourteen-year-old Carly Christenson, a popular junior varsity basketball player from St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Fifteen-year-old Joshua Polehna, who did charitable work in Fenton, Michigan.

And the flu is believed to have played a role in the sudden death of four-year-old Hunter Ewert of Ohio.

The last word goes to the grieving dad of Max Schwolert, who never dreamed he'd be attending his beloved son's funeral.

"Parents are supposed to tell kids it'll be okay. He was telling us it'll be okay," said Max's father.