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The day that changed my view of the flu vaccine

January 19, 2018 was the scariest day of my life. That was the day that I thought I had lost my youngest child, Avaya, to the flu. As a mother of six children, none of whom had ever gotten a flu vaccination, I thought this was something that would never happen to my family. Then, it did, and it happened quickly.

In the days leading up to January 19, Avaya had a low fever and a cough. I thought she had a common cold, which is normal that time of year for our family with six kids bringing home germs from different schools. Just in case, I took her to a clinic where they told me my assumption was accurate — her symptoms were in line with those of a common cold. So we went home and she rested.

That’s when everything escalated quickly. Avaya woke up from her nap mumbling with a high fever and I got a sense that something was very wrong. I called the doctor and we took her to the emergency room in Sheboygan.

They told me Avaya had the flu, but a transfer to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin would be best as they were better equipped to take care of her there.

She was doing okay until her lungs couldn’t take it anymore and collapsed. Like a scene from a movie, I was calmly sitting with my daughter when sudden beeping brought a flood of doctors to surround us. I was later told that if Avaya had stayed in Sheboygan, the chance of her surviving that night would have been slim. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin was prepared to deal with her lungs collapsing, and was able to let her body rest and heal afterwards with a medically induced coma.

After two weeks, she was woken up from the coma and moved from the intensive care unit to the acute floor where she spent a couple more weeks recovering. After leaving the hospital, she spent three months in outpatient therapy and it will take a year for her lungs to recover fully. That one afternoon led to a long time of recovery, but now, she is doing well.

I’m thankful for the amazing care she had at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Put simply, they saved her life. But the flu almost killed my healthy 3-year-old. I don’t want any other parents to experience how scary that was or to go through what my family went through.

Don’t let this happen to your child

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to get you and your children the flu vaccination. It has been studied extensively, and it’s safe and recommended for nearly everyone over 6 months of age. Don’t take chances, because the flu can happen to your child and it can be very serious.

I didn’t realize how serious the consequences of the flu could be, but it only took a few days to turn my vibrant little Avaya into a very ill girl. We were lucky and we thank the team at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for taking care of her during that scary time.