“He Gave The Best Hugs”: Jude Died From The Flu But It Needn't Be In Vain

Jill Promoli McGee's campaign 'For Jude For Everyone' aims to raise awareness surrounding the disease that took her two-year-old son.

Jude was a vibrant two-year-old boy. Healthy, happy, and enjoying life with his twin brother Thomas, older sister Isla, and parents Jill and Craig. He loved his puppy boots, his penguin, and his lion hat. He lived life with enthusiasm, devouring peanut butter sandwiches, playing with his dog Guinness, and choosing running in favour of walking. “He gave the best hugs,” recounts his adoring mom.

Jude should have celebrated his third birthday early in 2017, but this year, Thomas blew out his candles without his twin brother. On May 6th, 2016, Jude passed away suddenly from Influenza B.

Jude and his siblings had been feeling sick following an illness running through Isla’s class the week prior. Isla had recovered and returned to school, while Jude remained feverish and Thomas experienced bouts of vomiting. With a dose of Tylenol, Jude’s temperature returned to normal, and he settled down with his brother for their routine nap. When Jill came to wake them, Jude was unresponsive and not breathing. He was pronounced dead an hour later at Credit Valley Hospital after emergency interventions had failed. It was confirmed several months later that Jude had died of the flu.

Through her campaign For Jude, For Everyone, Jill is telling Jude’s story in hopes that through this tragedy, others can be saved.

“I just really miss my kid. I would give anything to have him back. I can't have that, though, so all I can do now is work to help raise awareness and hopefully I can prevent another family from going through what we are. He's not here anymore, but maybe by telling his story and talking to people about what an awesome kid he was, and how needless his death was, we can help keep someone else safe. He isn't here to build his own life and legacy, but we can do this for him.”

When the virus appeared at school, no one could have known it would have such far-reaching and devastating consequences, but it could have been prevented. The key is breaking the chain.

The biggest thing you can do to prevent the spread of the flu is to get the flu shot. Getting the flu shot can cut your risk of catching (and spreading) the flu by as much as half. If more people had gotten the flu shot last year, it may never have reached Jude at all.

As Jill explains, “The key is asking people to understand that while getting the flu shot might be a personal choice, the consequences of our choice affect everyone we come in contact with. We aren't just choosing whether or not to protect ourselves, but whether to help protect our community. No vaccine is 100% perfect, but some protection is better than none, and even if you get the flu after the shot, you can expect to experience much less severe symptoms than you would have otherwise.”

While the vast majority of people who die from the flu did not receive the vaccine, Jude was one of the few who had the shot and still died.

“I've had people ask if I feel like Jude's flu shot was pointless since he died anyway," says Jill. "But if he hadn't had his flu shot, he still would have gotten sick and died, and I'd spend the rest of my life wishing I'd done more to protect him. There's some peace in knowing that we gave him every defence we could have, and there was nothing more we should have done to keep him safe. I'm sure I'd never sleep again if we hadn't.”

If you haven’t gotten the shot yet, it is still important to do so. Flu season will be here for several more months. Jude died in May.

In addition to getting the flu shot, Jill stresses the importance of being proactive against the spread of the flu. Washing your hands often, staying home when sick, and learning about the virus go a long way to prevent infection. If can save a life. It could have saved Jude’s.

“If someone had run a campaign like this last year it might have reached someone in the chain of people who had the flu before it got to Jude, and then he'd still be here. Every conversation is an opportunity to save someone's life, which is pretty wild,” says Jill. “We can’t change what has happened, but maybe if we talk about it, there can be fewer families like ours next year. We need everyone’s help.”

For more information about the flu, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/flu-influenza.html

To learn more about Jude and the For Jude, For Everyone campaign, please visit: http://www.forjudeforeveryone.com

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