National Post (Latest Edition)

FIGHTING THE FLU

Jude’s Legacy How a Tragic Death Inspired One Mother to Promote Flu Prevention.

- Ishani Nath

This used to be Jill Promoli’s favourite time of year. Between Halloween, her birthday in November, Christmas and the birthdays of her young children, the months were filled with love and festivitie­s.

“We like to celebrate and make a big deal out of all these things, because life is short,” she says. But this year, the 34-year- old Mississaug­a mom isn’t sure how she will make it through.

It has been less than a year since Promoli lost her 2-year- old son Jude to a strain of the influenza virus, commonly known as the flu, and she is still coming to terms with the devastatin­g loss.

“I wake up and go to bed every single day rememberin­g that Jude is not here anymore, and it’s awful,” she says.

Jude’s story

Promoli’s twin boys, Thomas and Jude, were a dynamic duo. Jude was the leader. Whatever mischief he got into, Thomas would follow. So when Promoli walked into the boys’ nursery and only Thomas popped up from his crib to greet her, she instantly knew something was wrong.

Within an hour of Promoli finding her son’s motionless body in his crib, starting compressio­ns, calling paramedics and getting to a hospital, Jude was pronounced dead. It was Mother’s Dayweekend.

“Even now with all the informatio­n we have, it’s impossible to wrap our heads around,” says Promoli.“It’s notwhatyou expect to happen, ever.”

Protect each other

The coroner determined that though both the twins, as well as Promoli’s older six-yearold daughter Isla had gotten their immunizati­ons, Jude had died of the flu — a viral infection that can be extremely serious for infants, seniors, and those who are i mmuno-compromise­d. According to Statistics Canada, the virus kills 3,500 Canadians each year.

Although, as seen in Jude’s tragic case, the flu shot does not succeed in making everyone immune to the infection, Promoli has made it her mission to advocate for the vaccine, explaining that it’s about more than the individual. “The flu had to be passed along from a lot of people before it made its way to Jude in May,” she says. This is the basis of herd immunity, the idea that if more people get immunized, it will help to reduce the overall risk of contractin­g an illness. “It’s not just about protecting ourselves, it’s about protecting the people around us,” says Promoli.

A mother’s message

Promoli describes the loss that her family has suffered as “hell on earth,” but she is determined to use Jude’s story to spread informatio­n about the importance of getting the flu shot.

With Jude gone, Promoli says she is keeping his memory alive by sharing stories about her vivacious little boy with her surviving children.

“Jude is not here, but he’s still very much a part of us.”

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