On the Dedicated to All Better blog, Toula Argentis shared a heartbreaking story of her unfortunate decision not to vaccinate her son against the flu.
“Heading into every holiday season, I’d see stories about the flu on TV and ‘Get your flu shot here’ signs around town. As a healthy mother of three healthy boys, I tuned out the news stories and walked past the signs. I was confident my sons and I would be able to overcome the flu even if we came down with the virus,” she wrote.
Argentis says that in 2012, her husband asked her pediatrician if they should have their youngest son, Nikolas, vaccinated for influenza. The doctor, she said, left the choice up to them. Since her older boys had never received a flu shot, and Nikolas was healthy, they chose not to vaccinate.
In March of 2013, Nikolas contracted the B strain of the flu virus. “We kept him hydrated and encouraged rest. The symptoms still got worse, and he complained of chest pain. On a Saturday, he went into cardiac arrest,” said Argentis.
“Nikolas, my surprise baby who brought so much joy to our lives, passed away that night,” she wrote. “The pain is unbearable. I wish for no parent to ever have to go through what we have experienced. We are still trying to move on in our life without him. He remains in our hearts, memories, dreams and thoughts every day. There’s even a memorial park for him at Murdock Elementary School.”
This was a hard-learned, horrible, and unnecessary lesson for this loving mother, who did not see the need for a vaccination.
When I think back on the decision of whether to vaccinate Nikolas, it seemed simple enough. As a healthy family, we didn’t see the risk. We didn’t understand the severity of the virus or the implications that vaccinations have on everyone we encounter. When you get the flu vaccine, you are not only protecting yourself. You’re protecting your family. You’re protecting your friends. You’re doing your part to stop the spread of the flu.
We’ll never know exactly where Nikolas contracted the flu. It may have been a door handle or a water fountain. The germs can live on surfaces for up to eight hours, and a sneeze can carry them across a room.
I now know that more than 90 percent of people who die from the flu are either not vaccinated or have weakened immune systems. Now, I understand the risk.
For anyone reading this and thinking that their family will not become another flu statistic: yes, the odds are in in your favor. I know that some people question the effectiveness of vaccines. But, from my perspective, I’d much rather know that we did everything possible to protect our son than be left to wonder what if.
Unfortunately, many Americans have become paranoid about vaccines, in general, and still more simply think they will be fine. The story of Nikolas Argentis is an unfortunate, yet powerful reminder that there is a gigantic risk in not taking the extra steps to protect one’s self and one’s family.