H1N1 Anniversary: Faded for Some, Forever for Others

H1N1 vaccine
Flickr photo by Jacobo Tarrio
Remember the H1N1 swine flu frenzy? It's strange to think it's been one year since we were all running around with our heads cut off about this. Do my kids have swine flu? Is H1N1 in the schools? Vaccinate? Don't vaccinate? Some days now, swine flu seems a distant, almost silly, memory.

But not for one mom who lost her 7-year old son to H1N1 last November.


When Jessica Holt's two young sons Joey, 7, and Jeffrey, 3, fell ill with flu symptoms, she didn't get overly worried. Both boys were healthy, active children, and many people get the flu every year.

Joey was sent home from school with a temperature of 103 and a belly ache. A doctor's visit two days later provided Joey with antibiotics and the typical flu cure: Fluids and lots of rest. That night, when Joey began to vomit, look pale, and feel cold to the touch, Jessica called 911.

On the way to the hospital, Joey's heart rate dropped rapidly. He said, "I love you, Mama. Hold my hand." And then he died.

Now Jessica lives daily with not only heartache but daily regret. She said, "If I had gotten my son Joey vaccinated, maybe he'd be here right now. You don't want to walk in my shoes. I live every day with that regret: Why didn't I do it?"

It's easy for those of us who stayed clear of the virus last year to feel like it was nothing or even feel like we perhaps overreacted. And maybe, in some ways, we did. However, Jessica Holt's reality is where that fear stemmed from. None of us want this to happen to our children.

Some parents reacted by vaccinating or not vaccinating, pulling their kids out of school, or reading everything they could about the flu's symptoms and risks. And others, like Jessica perhaps, simply took comfort in the ongoing health of our children. For most of us, any and all of these approaches worked, and we didn't lose a child to H1N1 last year.

So what's the lesson? Maybe there isn't one. Maybe we can only weigh the odds and do our best every day to watch over and protect our children. Maybe having a child walking around the planet is simply a risky business and some things are genuinely out of our hands. And perhaps over-preparing or overreacting helps some of us feel better about what some days feels like Russian Roulette. Maybe others keep their sanity by not overreacting until there's something to react about. 

Like Jessica Holt, plenty of people educated about H1N1 or not made a similar choice not to vaccinate and didn't see a similar fate.

My deepest condolences go out to Jessica, brother Jeffrey, and the rest of their family.

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