SALT LAKE CITY – During a KUTV investigation into COVID-19 vaccine side effects and where to report them, we found four reported deaths, filed by Utah families and their caregivers to the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Reporting System.
One case stood out, a 39-year-old single mom from Ogden who died four days after her second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Her family, who is now waiting on an autopsy, held a celebration of life for her this past weekend.
Kassidi Kurill by all accounts was healthy, happy and “had more energy” than just about anyone else around her. She had no known health problems or pre-existing conditions.
Kassidi Kurill’s Story
“I didn’t really cry when my dad died, I cry a lot for her.”
Alfred Hawley, a retired Hill Air Force Base fighter pilot, is a military man who has known risk and loss his entire life. He’s taken it all in stride, until now.
An hour before his daughter’s celebration of life this past Saturday, he sat down to talk about his baby girl, the one who always wore makeup to cover up the freckles he loved so much.
With tears in his eyes, Alfred said “I’m at a state in my life where I’m ok with that (emotion)” as he wiped a tear from his cheek; not the first and not the last.
“She was the one who promised to take care of me” he said.
The death of his youngest daughter came out of nowhere in a year where this family has already suffered unimaginable grief with three funerals before Kassidi in the past 370 days.
Four days after Kassidi’s second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, she was gone. Dead before most of her family could say their goodbyes.
“She came in early and said her heart was racing and she felt like she need to get to the emergency room.” Alfred woke up that Thursday morning to his daughter asking for help.
Kassidi and her 9-year-old daughter Emilia lived with her parents. They’d been one family under the same roof since Emilia was born. Mom and Dad, grandma and grandpa always close by when they were needed.
Alfred, now retired, spent a lot of time with his girls. Kassidi, he says, “got sick right away, soreness at the shot location then started getting sick then started complaining that she was drinking lots of fluids but couldn’t pee and then felt a little better the next day.”
It was her second shot; the first came with a sore arm but no real side effects or issues. Kassidi was the first in the family to get the vaccine. She was a surgical tech for several local plastic surgeons, and the vaccine was a part of the job. She stepped up to get the shot, her family says, without hesitation.
“She was absolutely fine with getting it, in fact she told all of us- it’s fine you guys should all get it.”
Kassidi’s older sister Kristin, often confused as her twin, lives in Arizona. The distance didn’t matter much, they visited often and talked on the phone every day.
The day her sister got the second COVID-19 shot was a normal one from their conversations throughout the day. “They had gone shopping, she was fine then started feeling not so great that evening.”
Kristin said they were not worried about Kassidi because “everyone from her work had flu like symptoms -so we thought that was normal.” The kind of thing you had to sweat out for a couple days.
Kassidi got the second shot on Monday, Feb. 1. While she was in bed all day Tuesday and Wednesday, it wasn’t until Thursday morning she knew something was wrong. She woke up early, got ready and asked her dad to driver her to the local ER, where they arrived by 7 a.m.
As soon as they walked in the door, Kassidi was throwing up. Minutes later, questions were raised about what was making her so sick.
Her dad recalls doctors asking question after question, “Is there any explanation?”
He answered saying, “She just had the shot, they did a blood test and immediately came back and said she was very-very sick, and her liver was not functioning.”
Kristin, still in Arizona, knew her sister had gone to the hospital but the speed of what was happening was “so unexpected.” She was thinking Kassidi would get an IV with fluids and be back home in an hour.
Alfred, who was at the ER with his daughter knew they were not going home any time soon.
“It was a total shock and I was even afraid to tell my wife” he recalled. It was a call he did not want to make.
Kassidi was flown to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, a trauma center where they had the ability to do transplants if needed. Her liver was failing and a transplant, doctors believed, was her best option at survival.
That’s when Kristin got the call her sister was being transferred. She jumped on the first flight to Utah, but when she landed, she was not allowed in the hospital because of COVID-19 protocols. She waited with Kassidi’s daughter Emilia, hoping for a miracle.
Both of Kassidi’s parents volunteered to donate a portion of their liver, they knew if they were not a match, they could be part of a trade where someone else who was a match could help their daughter.
They never got the chance to offer the lifesaving gift. Doctors at Intermountain were doing everything they could to get Kassidi stable, but nothing seemed to work. Alfred said his daughter’s liver, kidney and heart shut down.
Alfred, who was with his daughter when she passed, said it didn’t make any sense.
“She was healthy – happy and active. The greatest mom you ever saw in your life and then she was so sick that in less than 12 hours intubated and on life support.”
She passed, he said, 30 hours after they arrived in the emergency room.
An autopsy was recommended by doctors at Intermountain and the family agreed. Kurill’s body was moved to the Utah State Medical Examiner in Taylorsville where a full autopsy was performed.
The State Medical Examiner’s office cannot comment on the case because of privacy laws but spoke to KUTV about when an autopsy would provide answers to a family reporting a death post vaccine.
Dr. Erik Christensen, Utah’s chief Medical Examiner, said proving vaccine injury as a cause of death almost never happens.
“Did the vaccine cause this? I think that would be very hard to demonstrate in autopsy,” he said.
Erik can think of only one instance where you would see a vaccine as the cause of death on an official autopsy report and that would be in an immediate case of Anaphylaxis. One where a person received the vaccine and died almost instantaneously.
“Short of that” he said, “it would be difficult for us to definitively say this is the vaccine.”
A more likely result, would be a lack of answers or an “incomplete autopsy.”
The autopsy, he said, can provide answers to a family when no disease or red flags or found. As Erik explained, “that we don’t see a competing cause of death.” That lack of answers may help them understand if the vaccine was a possible cause.
An autopsy could also identify a cause of death the family was unaware of where doctors find undiagnosed pneumonia, cancer or an unknown heart condition. Erik said there are many people, even young people, walking around with major health issues they simply don’t know about.
Kassidi, according to her family, had no known medical conditions. Her past medical records will likely be used in her death investigation that could take as long as three months depending on what initial reports and toxicology reports show.
Kassidi’s family is hopeful they will have answers, but know the reality that they may never know for sure what claimed their daughter and sisters life.
Kristin said when she looks back, Kassidi “was fine the day she got the shot and then everything changed.”
Her father agrees, saying Kassidi was “healthy and good- then she took the shot.” He points to “Accom’s Razor where the simplest answer is mostly likely correct.”
Until he gets other data, Alfred “must believe there was something with the shot.”
Kassidi’s death will leave a major void; her 9-year-old daughter will continue living with her grandparents. Her father, a civil servant and member of the National Guard, travels for work and has served several tours overseas.
Her family has set up a Memorial Account in Kassidi Kurill’s name:
You can donate at America First Credit Union
- PO Box 9199, Ogden Ut 84409
- Routing # AFCU 324377516
- Account #9119439
A GoFundMe has also been set up for Emelia.
Emilia, or “Millie” as her family calls her, was the one who wanted her mom’s story told. She’s been forced to grow up a lot in the four weeks since her mother’s passing.
She’s watched her grandpa decide to get his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Millie was begging me not to” Alfred said. It wasn’t an easy decision. He’d had his first shot not long after his daughter.
“There’s always risk” he said.
“You can’t make that go away, we take risk everyday all day long. You just have to decide -does it make sense?”
For him “as a 69-year-old diabetic it made sense to take the second shot and get 95% immunity.” After a long pause, he said that “if you are young maybe it doesn’t make sense.” Ultimately “you will have to make your own decision.”
In Utah, Kassidi is just one of four reported vaccine deaths. Three other reported deaths are in Utahns all in their 80s. With information available it does not appear autopsies were ordered in their cases.
Erik notes vaccine deaths are possible and do happen.
Currently 1,637 families or caregivers have reported deaths they believe could be related to the vaccine to VAERS. The CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System.
The Centers for Disease Control currently says there are no deaths attributed to COVID-19 vaccines.
“Over 92 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through March 8, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 1,637 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. CDC and FDA physicians review each case report of death as soon as notified and CDC requests medical records to further assess reports. A review of available clinical information including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records revealed no evidence that vaccination contributed to patient deaths. CDC and FDA will continue to investigate reports of adverse events, including deaths, reported to VAERS.,” CDC reported on its website.
KUTV will follow up with the family when the autopsy report has been completed. In the state of Utah, those reports are not public and can only be viewed when the family chooses to share that information. The Medical Examiner, because of HIPPA, could not say whether the autopsy would be automatically forwarded to the CDC and the FDA.