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Catoosa Teacher Who Died After Flu Diagnosis Is Remembered Fondly

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CATOOSA, Oklahoma - It's a record-breaking flu season, and many are feeling the impact. It especially has been tough at a school in Catoosa, where a longtime teacher recently died after being diagnosed with the flu.

Valerie Baker's son says his mother's passion was teaching. She spent 17 years teaching and was a kindergarten teacher at the Helen Paul Learning Center.

It's been almost two months since she died.

Evan Baker said his mother was diagnosed with the Type A strain of the flu the week before Christmas. Valerie Baker, just 56 years old and healthy, died just five days after learning she had the flu.

She got some medicine, felt better the next day and was cleared by her doctor to go back to class.

“She knew she needed to go back to school for the kids, so they could have their Christmas parties and she could get them sent off for Christmas break. She didn't feel great, but she felt good enough to go to school," Evan Baker said.

But by Saturday she was sick again, worse this time.

“She started struggling to breathe and she stayed up all night and didn't tell anybody and [Sunday] morning she called my aunt and my aunt rushed her to the hospital,” he said. “My dad wasn't feeling well either and she didn't want to wake him up that morning to go to the hospital, so my aunt took her.”

Evan said his mom fought for a full day, but died 24 hours after getting to the hospital.

“The flu went from flu to pneumonia, then pneumonia started causing an infection and then her lungs shut down and then her kidneys, then her liver, and then she slowly passed away from there,” Evan Baker said.

There are reminders everywhere -- in the face of Valerie's three children and in the eyes of her four grandchildren.

And just before she got sick she found out her baby, Evan, would be having a baby of his own soon.

“When we found out we're gonna have a little girl, I started dialing her phone number and then realized I couldn't call her,” Evan Baker said. “She wanted a little girl and I think that's why we're having a little girl.”

“She was a good mother and a good wife to my dad and he really misses her, but things happen and now we know to take it more seriously and I think everyone else should, too,” he said.

In addition to her son, Evan, Valerie had two daughters, both of whom are teachers in Catoosa. One of them a kindergarten teacher at Helen Paul.

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