After the death of her 2-year-old, Mississauga mom urges everyone to get their flu shot

1 / 2
After the death of her 2-year-old, Mississauga mom urges everyone to get their flu shot

When Jill Promoli put her son down for a nap last May, she had no idea that he would never wake up again.

Two-year-old Jude had a low-grade fever, so Promoli was making sure he and his twin brother Thomas had a quiet day at their home in Mississauga.

"I wanted to make sure he had a chance to rest up," she said.

"We played with blocks and built robots. And I put him down for his nap after lunch, and that was it."

When Promoli came back to the room, only Thomas jumped up to greet her. Jude was not breathing and unresponsive.

"We started life saving measures. The neighbours helped while the paramedics came and they continued to work on him at Credit Valley Hospital but there was nothing they could do."

Died from influenza

After four months of not knowing, doctors confirmed that Jude had died from a strain of influenza B.

The news shocked and confused Promoli, especially because Jude got the flu shot the previous December.

That particular flu shot covered four strains of influenza, including the strain Jude contracted.

"Initially I just felt really angry at the situation because it just didn't make any sense to me," Promoli said.

Flu shot not 100% effective

Dr. Allison McGeer is director of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital. She said that some people do die from infectious diseases they've been vaccinated for, but it happens "extraordinarily rarely."

She said the flu shot isn't as effective as other vaccines, which is why it's important everyone gets it.

"If I get vaccinated I'm partially protected, and I protect the people around me because I don't give it to them," she said. 

"If all of us are vaccinated than that protection is much greater than if just I am vaccinated."

Campaigning for flu shot

Even though her son was one of those rare cases, Promoli isn't doubting the flu shot.

Instead, she's urging all people to get vaccinated through her campaign, For Jude, For Everyone.

Even if you're young and healthy, Promoli said, you never know who you might give the flu.

Promoli said everybody has vulnerable people in their social circles, whether it be a pregnant colleague or a friend with a sick spouse.

"We need to look at it in a way that's not just about ourselves but about everyone around us," Promoli said.

"I don't want to be the reason that somebody else gets sick."

'It worked for a lot of people'

Promoli said it's frustrating that the flu shot didn't work for her own son. But she's glad she can be at peace, knowing she did everything she could to protect Jude.

"I understand why people might hear this story and think, well what's the point because it didn't work?'" she said.

"But at the same time, it worked for a lot of people last year. And it kept a lot of people really safe and healthy."

Toronto Public Health flu clinic locations begin vaccinations on October 27.