This Doctor Lost Her Son To The Flu And Is Urging Families To Get The Flu Shot ASAP

by Cassandra Stone
Originally Published: 
Image via Laura Sidari

This mother’s tragic story is why you need to schedule your child’s flu shot NOW

One mom is sharing the story of her family’s heartbreaking loss in hopes of preventing other families from suffering the same fate — the loss of a child. Now she’s urging parents and children to get flu shots as soon as possible.

Laura Sidari, a physician and mother, shared the tragedy of losing her son, Leon, to complications from the flu last year. Leon had not yet been vaccinated for the flu, but was scheduled to get his shot a few weeks after he died. How many of us put off getting our kids’ flu shots (and our own) because the fall season is so busy?

Sidari’s heartbreaking story, which she shared on her Facebook page, is why you don’t delay the flu shot.

“Last year, Leon was one of 180 children nationally who died from the flu,” Sidari writes. “Like roughly half of the children who die annually, he did not have a history of prior medical problems. His lungs were destroyed by bacterial pneumonia secondary to the flu. He died rapidly, only 2 days after showing general flu symptoms.”

Image via Laura Therese

Though Sidari is a physician herself, she says she wishes she had fully appreciated the risk of the flu to her healthy child. “I had delayed his shot to align with a well-child visit later in the season, which he did not survive to attend,” she writes. As a mother to a toddler with a late October birthday, this is a brutal wake-up call for me. The pediatrician’s office is always so crowded and backed up, I usually just schedule her shots to coincide with her annual well visit. Not this year, thanks to this story.

Image via Laura Therese

“I now intimately understand why the medical community overwhelmingly recommends the annual influenza vaccine for everyone over the age of 6 months,” Sidari writes. “It has been medically established that the flu shot reduces the risk of influenza-related mortality by 65% for healthy children. Of the children who die annually from flu-related complications, roughly 80% did not have their flu shot that season. It is the best option available to prevent child death due to the flu.”

She’s absolutely right. The American Academy of Pediatrics shares startling statistics on flu deaths in children — young children have the highest death rates, especially infants. Last year’s flu season was just awful, with the highest number of reported pediatric deaths in the history of the Center for Disease Control.

Of the 181 children who died last year because of the flu, 80% of them did not receive the flu shot. Let that be an eye-opener for parents everywhere.

Image via Laura Therese

“Leon is my reason this season, and every season, for getting flu shots on time,” Sidari says. “This is the best time of the year to get the shot. Holiday planning and fall festivities can wait, but the flu shot cannot.” There are always plenty of reasons for procrastinating on doctor’s office visits when your children aren’t ill, especially for busy families with full schedules. But this mom’s warning had me on the phone with the pediatrician’s office before I even finished reading it — I, too, was unaware of how even waiting a few extra weeks could mean the difference between life and death.

“I have been deeply touched by the number of parents who have been impacted by my post,” Sidari tells Scary Mommy. She says she’s heard from other families who have lost children due to the flu, and that parents and grandparents everywhere were inspired to vaccinate themselves and their children sooner because of her story.

Image via Laura Therese

“Last year, if I had seen a story like my own, I would have prioritized the shot differently.” If your child’s pediatrician has limited availability or cannot squeeze your child in for a flu shot soon enough to satisfy you, Therese recommends asking the pediatrician’s office for alternative options for getting the shot sooner.

“Since Leon passed, I have discovered that there are many wonderful moms, to include other physicians, who have let the shot slip through the cracks this time of year. The fall and winter months can be particularly challenging for families, with multiple demands on our time and energy particularly as the holidays approach,” she tells us. “As moms, we need to help one another in sharing information that helps us to best prioritize what we and our children need.”

She’s urging families who are inspired by her post to share their flu shot photos on social media. “If Leon or another little person is your reason for getting the flu shot this year, I ask that you consider sharing a family photo and spreading the word so that others may know too. #FluShotsForLeon”

Image via Laura Therese

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