Mother Shares How Flu Nearly Took Her Daughter, And Encourages Everyone To Get Vaccinated
I know we’re all sick of talking about Covid, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away.
According to the CDC, flu season occurs in the Fall and Winter seasons, peaking between December and February, with “activity” lasting as late as May. That’s half of the calendar year of being prone to a viral infection that “attacks the lungs, nose and throat,” causing our immune systems to crash, and in severe cases, can be deadly.
We can’t necessarily run away from ever getting sick, but we can take the right preventative measures when it comes to common viruses like the flu, and now, COVID-19, including washing our hands, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated.
Shelle Allen, mother to Madi Allen, spoke with me about how the flu nearly took her daughter’s life, and how being unvaccinated serves as a reminder to parents and children everywhere that the flu (or COVID and other airborne viruses) does not discriminate — “it doesn’t care if you are young, old, healthy or have a chronic disease,” Shelle says. “It could impact anyone.”
Shelle shares her story because she wants to help parents and caregivers understand the importance of the influenza vaccination, which can potentially help others from going through what she did.
What Every Parent Should Know About Flu Vaccination
“Madi was a healthy and active 12-year-old looking forward to Spring sports,” Shelle told me. “But shortly before visiting a friend’s birthday party, Madi became sick; her cough and fever rapidly deteriorated into difficulty breathing and she was hospitalized with the flu and double pneumonia.”
This was back in 2011, a year that Madi did not receive her flu vaccine, which doctors informed both Shelle and Madi being vaccinated could have helped prevent Madi from hospitalization. Today, Madi still suffers from a “severe cough,” and in January of 2021 had to have part of her left lung removed due to the damage the flu inflicted over a decade ago.
On life support, Madi was quickly transferred to the Children’s Hospital in St. Louis where she spent three months in a near-death situation. For five weeks, Shelle wasn’t able to see her daughter while she was placed on an ECMO, ventilator, and dialysis.
“Being a parent to a child hospitalized with flu is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” Shelle commented. “Although most people are not impacted as severely as Madi was, her story serves as a reminder of the importance of influenza vaccination to help protect ourselves and our loved ones from potential serious influenza-related complications.”
After Madi came home from the hospital, Shelle joined Families Fighting Flu, a nonprofit dedicated to educating on the importance and seriousness of influenza. The organization encourages people to make a commitment to protect themselves, their families and their community by getting the annual flu vaccine.
“I’m so proud to advocate,” Shelle said of the organization, “because I don’t want another mother or caregiver to have to go through an experience like mine.”
A Doctor Weighs in on The Importance of The Flu Vaccine, and How We Can Avoid a “Twindemic”
“There is not an official medical diagnosis used to describe co-infection of both seasonal influenza and COVID-19,” Dr. Sylvester said. “While the probability of co-infection is low, it is possible. In general, having a viral infection like COVID-19 or influenza can compromise the immune system, which means that the person is more vulnerable to having a second infection.”
Dr. Sylvester states as our healthcare system “continues to be overwhelmed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” it is “critical that we do what we can to minimize any additional burden placed on the system by influenza.” In correspondence with the CDC, Dr. Sylvester notes that a flu vaccine is the best preventative measure against getting infected and preventing some of the serious influenza-associated complications.
“People of all ages, regions, and socio-economic levels have the potential to be affected by influenza and COVID-19,” Dr. Sylvester pointed out. “However, there are populations at a higher risk for flu-related complications.”
This includes adults older than 65 years of age, who have the “highest chance of susceptibility to influenza,” as well as children younger than five years old, “especially those younger than two,” Dr. Sylvester said.
Dr. Sylvester stated that research has shown that the “yearly influenza vaccine can reduce flu illness as well as more serious flu outcomes that can result in hospitalization” (like Madi’s situation), and that “children six months to five years (who are otherwise healthy, he notes) are at a high risk of influenza-related complications simply due to their lack of prior immunity.”
Just like our healthcare experts and professionals (in line with recommendations from the CDC) have been telling us for the past two years, if you are sick with the flu or COVID-19, you should stay home (with the exception of getting medical care), separate yourself from other people in your home, monitor your symptoms, and get tested.
For more information on the Families Fighting Flu Vaccination Promise, head to their website.
Ashley is a Connecticut-based freelance writer specializing in mental health. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Well + Good, POPSUGAR, Modern Mom Probs, and more. On a mission to make mental health work fun, she believes our weirdness is what makes us great.
Sign up for her cheeky wellness newsletter here.