There is often a remarkable sense of generosity and caring for others among those who have survived a very serious illness, or lost a loved one to it. These people have been an extraordinary source of advocacy when it comes to vaccine-preventable disease, trying to save the lives of others and prevent suffering after their own very difficult experiences.
The most recent example of this is the effort by the mother and father of a 4-year-old who died last year of the flu. Leon Sidari died in Bexar County just before Christmas; he had been scheduled to get his flu shot in just a few days. His parents, Laura and Tony Sidari, both Air Force physicians, have set up a foundation to promote flu awareness and the importance of being vaccinated.
Laura Sidari recently told their story to People magazine in the hope that it would reach more parents' eyes, and save more children from the flu:
In the hospital, there came a moment when my brain knew that my son was dying, but my heart simply did not. In medical training, I can remember similar moments in the critical care setting, where death approached like a train hurtling towards its final destination. However, as a mother, nothing can prepare you for watching your child die.
In the end, there was simply shock, horror, helplessness and unbearable pain. I remember my final moments with him, crying in his blonde hair and kissing him goodbye.
Laura Sidari points out that even as physicians, she and her husband were unaware of how important vaccination timing could be, and says that she has since talked to many other parents who are similarly unaware.
Last year, if I had seen a story like my own, I would have prioritized the flu shot differently. As a physician, even I was unaware of the significant risk that the flu posed to my healthy child. Through reaching out to others, including other physician parents, I have discovered that I am not alone in that misconception.
In a popular magazine such as People, perhaps Laura Sidari's heartbreaking story will find a bigger audience. Surely, those who see it will be making appointments for flu shots, especially for their children. The time is now; a 2-year-old Florida child, also previously healthy, already has died of the flu this season. None of the eight children who died of the flu during the 2017-18 season had been vaccinated.
Go here to read the full People story.
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