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If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet — or haven’t gotten your kids their immunizations — I hope you will. The truth is, it could save a life. It could also save you the kind of heartache I and my family live with every day.
It was one of those ordinary February-in-Michigan days. Our family spent the hours together playing games inside, eating ice cream sundaes and watching movies. Our 5-year-old daughter, Alana, was a little lethargic in the morning, but felt better as the day went on — and didn’t show any real sign she was sick.
That changed in the middle of the night, when she woke up vomiting with a 106 degree fever. Soon we found ourselves in an ambulance, then in the hospital. The doctors and nurses worked hard to get her fever under control and to figure out what was wrong.
When the doctor told us they’d finally diagnosed her with influenza, I was relieved. The flu is treatable. Everybody gets, “the flu.” The doctor kept talking but I’d tuned him out.
He had to repeat what he was telling me. Alana was struggling. She had swelling around her brain. She’d suffered serious complications. She wasn’t going to make it.
Less than 24 hours after we arrived, Alana lost her life to the flu. Our lives will never be the same.
The years since have been difficult. I don’t want anyone to go through what I go through to this day. That’s why I established Alana’s Foundation to help educate the public about the importance of yearly flu vaccinations. Our 100 percent volunteer-run organization works to prevent deaths caused by influenza, a vaccine-preventable disease, and to provide support for families whose child has died from any illness.
We hold flu clinics, do patient education and provide family support. Too many families need it.
Already this season in the U.S., at least two children have lost their lives to influenza. Many others have suffered serious illness.
When Alana died, there hadn’t yet been a CDC recommendation for the flu vaccine for kids. That has changed, though: The CDC now recommends that anyone over the age of six months get an annual flu shot. With the additional strain of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health care system and on families, it is more important than ever for Michiganders of all ages to get vaccinated against the flu to stop the spread of preventable diseases.
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In the United States, the flu season typically peaks between January and March, with February having the highest rate of disease reported. That’s right around the corner, and it means Michigan is currently in the middle of flu season. It also means it’s not too late to protect yourself and your family.
Alana loved to dance and she loved gymnastics. She was my princess. Everyone wanted to be around her.
I never knew the flu could kill children until Alana died. Our family will never be the same and we miss Alana every single day. We only hope others do everything they can to protect their children from the flu. Get immunized. Get your kids immunized. Flu shots save lives.
Zachary Yaksich is the founder of Alana's Foundation.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Protect your child from flu and other vaccine-preventable diseases