Family Story - Amy Pisani

Amy PisaniAmy Pisani is the Executive Director of Every Child By Two, an advocacy group dedicated to ensure the immunization of all American children by the age of two. Her son became dangerously ill with the flu when he was a toddler.


"When my son Antonio was 13 months old he became very ill. I didn't really know that it was the flu at the time, to tell you the truth. He just had a terrible chest cold and he was feverish. As the week went by, I thought that he was getting better because he became very cold and clammy one morning. I called the doctor and the doctor told me I needed to rush him into the hospital. As a new mother, I thought cold and clammy meant that his fever had broken and I thought that was a good thing, but as I learned later on when I got to the emergency room it meant that his blood pressure had plummeted. He was cold because he wasn't getting enough oxygen.


He was in the hospital for about three days and he had all the intravenous treatments for fluids. He was put into an oxygen tent and they did give him nebulizer treatments every hour. At the time I was already working for Every Child By Two, so I was well aware of the importance of flu vaccines, but they didn't recommend it for children of that age at that point yet. And so, of course, I hadn't gotten him the flu vaccine. I didn't even realize it was the flu until the next year when I took him into the doctor's office and I was told that it was time for the flu shots and I said, "Well, I think my son might be high risk because he has asthma." They said, "Yes, in fact he does have asthma and he did get hospitalized for the flu last year." And I said, "I didn't even know that it was the flu." They had never told me that. They had just recorded it on his chart, but had never told me that.


I never realized that he was high risk and therefore needed to get the flu vaccine ahead of all the other children that year because it was the year of the shortage. Through the years I became more and more aware of many other families who had lost their children to influenza. I realized how lucky I was that he did survive and fortunately, I did get him into the hospital soon enough.


Parents don't understand how serious the flu can be. With my friends who have children, some of them do vaccinate; some of them don't. Some of them think, "Well, you know, we've all gotten the flu before," and then I say, "But, 150 children die at least every year of the flu." I think many people think that those are children who are very ill to begin with. They don't realize that they're children who were perfectly healthy one day, and the next day they go into the hospital and it's just too late."


To hear Amy Pisani's full interview, visit Sound Advice.

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