November 2, 2018 3:06 pm

Doctor describes ‘horror’ of losing son to the flu, warns parents to get kids vaccinated

ABOVE: Doctors whose son died 10 days before flu shot appointment warns other parents.

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Two U.S. doctors who lost their son to the flu are warning parents to vaccinate their children this season — and sooner rather than later.

Laura and Anthony Sidari’s four-year-old son, Leon, was set to get the flu shot on Jan. 3, 2018. In a recent Facebook post, Sidari described how she delayed it in order to align with a visit to the pediatrician when her other son had his annual visit.

READ MORE: When should you get the flu shot in Canada?

But Leon did not make it to the appointment.

Two days before Christmas (and 10 days before his scheduled shot) the four-year-old started getting sick with “general flu symptoms,” she said. Sidari gave her son chicken noodle soup while he watched cartoons, fighting a fever and some body aches, according to People.

Leon Sidari, 4, dies Christmas Day 2017, less than two days after he started feeling sick with the flu.

GoFundMe

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Leon’s symptoms rapidly got worse and turned into bacterial pneumonia. He was taken to the hospital where he died on Christmas morning. He had no history of medical problems, according to his parents.

Described as an “old soul” with patience and gentleness beyond his years, his parents said Leon’s smile was infectious and his love for his brothers inspiring.

READ MORE: Doctors anticipate better flu shot match, as annual sneezing, hacking season begins

“In the end, there was simply shock, horror, helplessness and unbearable pain,” Sidari told People. “I remember my final moments with him, crying in his blond hair and kissing him goodbye.”

She said the flu vaccine was not “even on her radar” as something she needed to prioritize and it just slipped through the cracks.

Laura Sidari said Leon (far left) was He was an “old soul” with patience and gentleness beyond his years.

Facebook/ Laura Therese

Now she is warning other parents about the dangers of the flu and the importance to get vaccinated before the season goes into full force.

“Last year, if I had seen a story like my own, I would have prioritized the flu shot differently. As a physician, even I was unaware of the significant risk that the flu posed to my healthy child,” she said.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist in Toronto, said between November and February is when flu season starts going into overdrive in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s very important people are prepared.

“People don’t usually understand how severe it is. They think it is just a cough or a cold. It is not. It can be a very serious infection,” Bogoch said.

WATCH: Keeping the flu away from your kids

He said a “disproportionate” number of people who die of the flu every year are not vaccinated.

“There’s a reason the shots are available now,” he said. “There may not be too many cases of influenza right now, but you don’t need a crystal ball to predict there will be more cases soon. Week after week there will be more cases going into December.”

On Oct. 6, Sidari posted pictures on Facebook of her husband and two sons getting their flu vaccinations. She shared the photos under the hashtag #FluShotsForLeon, and encouraged others to follow.
“Leon is my reason this season, and every season, for getting flu shots on time,” she wrote. “This is the best time of the year to get the shot. Holiday planning and fall festivities can wait, but the flu shot cannot.”

Image of the Sidari family getting their flu shot this year.

Laura Therese/Facebook

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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