Flu season is right around the corner, and like other years, we can’t predict how severe it will be. Unlike the common cold, influenza is a serious and highly contagious disease that tends to develop quickly, especially in children. Every year in the United States, approximately 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized, and on average, 100 children die due to the flu and its complications.

As a mother, I know the dangers of flu all too well because I lost my healthy, 5-year-old son, Joseph, to H1N1 flu in October 2009. Joseph received his annual flu vaccination in September, but H1N1 wasn’t in the vaccine that year.

A mysterious diagnosis

On Oct. 9, Joseph began vomiting and was very lethargic. After calling our pediatrician, we decided to take Joseph to the local urgent care center. Upon arrival, his blood oxygen levels were low and he was immediately transported to the local children’s hospital. That night, he was initially diagnosed with pneumonia and it wasn’t until several days into his hospital stay that Joseph was diagnosed with H1N1 flu. He was given antibiotics for the pneumonia and antiviral medication for the flu.

“Before that, I had never heard of a child dying from the flu...”

Joseph spent the next nine days in the hospital where his condition was relatively stable. However, on Oct. 17, Joseph’s blood pressure plummeted and we were sent back to the intensive care unit. Joseph endured a long night of x-rays, bloodwork, and other tests. The doctors didn’t seem overly alarmed about Joseph’s condition, but they couldn’t figure out what was causing his low blood pressure.

Tragedy strikes

On the morning of Oct. 18, I was by Joseph’s bedside when he suddenly coded. The doctors and nurses worked feverishly to save him, but tragically, my son lost his life to the flu that day. Before that, I had never heard of a child dying from the flu, but sadly since then I have met numerous families who have suffered the same tragedy.

I want everyone to understand how critically important it is for all children and their families to get their flu vaccinations each and every year. Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best preventative measure we can take, and it’s recommended for everyone six months and older. We can all play a part in the fight against influenza because getting an annual flu vaccination not only protects you and your family, but it also helps protect others in your community and limits the potential for an outbreak.