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Zwanziger urges parents to advocate for children

By Matt Hudson, Owatonna People’s Press

OWATONNA — Friends and family gathered Sunday morning at the Morehouse Chalet to remember Shannon Zwanziger, the 17-year-old Owatonna High School student who died last week of the flu-related symptoms.

Prior to the service, Zwanziger’s father, Terry, gave a statement about the family’s tumultuous week. He began with message of thanks for the community support the family had received and said that they have experienced the meaning of “Minnesota Nice” during this hard time.

He also had a message for other families. He said that his daughter’s death was preventable, and the medical examiner’s autopsy revealed signs that Shannon Zwanziger needed to be hospitalized. He urged others not to take chances with their kids’ health and to trust instincts.

No medical cost is worth the loss of a child’s life, he said.

“Our message to other parents is, don’t be afraid to advocate for your children.” Terry Zwanziger said. “Their lives are the most precious possession you have.”

He talked about taking his daughter to the clinic after she had been sick, only to be told to let it “run its course.” After being told it was a typical flu, they returned home with some medication.

“We left with cough syrup and nausea medication,” Terry Zwanziger said. “40 hours later, Shannon died.”

Her heart had stopped beating. Terry Zwanziger said that his daughter had Influenza Type A. The medical examiner determined that the flu, as well as secondary infections related to pneumonia, caused her death.

Instead of a traditional funeral service, the family invited visitors to take a walk through the life of Zwanziger. The chalet was adorned with mementos to represent her. Along with photos were NASCAR memorabilia, skateboards and a collection of artwork made by the creative student. A video camera was set up for people to share their thoughts and memories of Zwanziger.

Early arrivals to the chalet looked through the displays and became overwhelmed with emotion. As the family requested, people showed up wearing red—one of Zwanziger’s favorite colors.

As Terry Zwanziger grieved for his daughter, his thoughts were also of others. It was the hope that other families might be spared from a similar experience.

“Nothing will bring Shannon back, or make the loss of her life less painful,” he said. “But if this saves some other child’s life, we will count her death meaningful.”