A Baby's Death by Flu Spurs His Parents on to Educate the Masses
Chances are, you may not have thought much about the dangers of the flu before last year's high profile H1N1 flu pandemic. After all, the flu is just like a bad cold, right?
Wrong. The truth is the flu can kill, and it isn't just a danger to elderly or sick people; it also kills children -- healthy children.
Ian Moise, who died from the flu when he was just 6-1/2 months old, was one of those children.
Approximately 20,000 children younger than 5 are hospitalized each year due to the flu. In fact, infants and toddlers are hospitalized as a result of the flu at rates similar to elderly people and at higher rates than people of all other ages. And, on an average, nearly 100 children die in the United States from the flu and its complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After Ian's death in 2003, his parents, Julie and Glenn Moise, joined Families Fighting Flu (FFF), a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization of families and health care practitioners who work to educate people about the severity of influenza and the importance of vaccinating children against the flu every year. Each FFF member family either has had a child who has died from the flu or who has experienced severe medical complications as a result of the flu.
Julie Moise agreed to share Ian's story with ParentDish, in the hopes that other parents will be spared the tragic loss her family has experienced.
ParentDish: How long had Ian been sick with the flu?
Julie Moise: Ian developed his first symptom on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., and in less than 30 hours, we lost our beautiful baby.
PD: Had he been seen by a doctor while he was sick?
JM: Yes, Ian had been seen by doctors twice, and we had also called the local nurse hotline for advice twice.
PD: What did the doctors tell you about his condition?
JM: We took him to the pediatrician's office when he first got sick, and the doctor told us that it looked like the flu. He told us that we should just treat his symptoms, keep him comfortable and schedule a follow-up appointment if his symptoms didn't improve.
But later that evening, his breathing had gotten rapid, and he seemed very sick. So, we decided to take him to an urgent care center that specializes in children, where they tested him for the flu. They told us that he had tested positive for Influenza A and negative for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and I thought "Oh, good, it's just the flu." The doctor there also told us to treat his symptoms and follow up if he didn't start to improve.
PD: So they thought he was well enough to go home?
JM: Yes, everybody just kept saying, "Oh, it just sounds like the flu -- keep him hydrated." So, we took him home. But he still didn't seem well the next day, so I called the pediatrician again.
PD: Did you take Ian back to the pediatrician?
JM: By this time, I wasn't feeling well myself; I was starting to get sick. My husband came home and we decided to take him to the emergency room because we just didn't like his coloring. And right then is when Ian stopped breathing. Glenn was holding him and, to me, it was almost like he had waited for his daddy to come home.
PD: What did you do?
JM: We called an ambulance, but we live very close to the hospital, so we jumped in the truck and headed for the hospital. I started rescue breathing -- as a flight attendant, I'm trained in rescue breathing -- but I could tell he wasn't responding. The fire station is two blocks from our house, so we pulled in there, and the firemen started CPR. The ambulance met us there to take us to the hospital, about three miles away. But they were never able to revive Ian at all.
PD: Did Ian have some other health condition that contributed to his death?
JM: We thought he must have had some underlying health condition that we weren't aware of, but his heart and lungs were fine. But he had so much mucus built up in his esophagus, it caused respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. So, no, he didn't have an underlying health condition; he died from complications of influenza.
PD: Had he gotten a flu vaccine?
JM: Yes, he had just been at his 6-month check-up 10 days prior and gotten the first of his two vaccines; he was due to get his second vaccine a month after that.
PD: Why two vaccines?
JM: Children under 9 who receive the flu vaccine for the first time need to receive two doses to achieve a high enough level of protection.
PD: Did your other children get vaccinated that year?
JM: Yes. My other two boys, Ryan and Sean, who were 5 and 7 then, had gotten vaccinated, and neither of them got the flu that year. My husband and I did not get vaccinated, and we both got the flu that year. I tested positive when Ian died, and Glenn got sick two days later and received the news of his positive test results while we were at Ian's funeral.
PD: What's the most important thing you can tell parents?
JM: Protect your family and get vaccinated. It's the number one way to prevent the spread of the flu, and the flu can kill -- it can kill healthy children, and I think that's what's so scary.
For more information on the flu, prevention and treatment, visit the Flu.gov website.
Related: Kids, Adults Should Get Flu Vaccine, American Lung Association Urges
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.