Opinion: A Mother’s Plea – Get Your Flu Shot

Crystal Lett Crystal Lett Opinion: A Mother’s Plea – Get Your Flu Shot
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I recently took my three kids to get our yearly flu shot. It’s an important tradition in our family, because my oldest son lives with a rare disorder that makes him more susceptible to serious illness. My younger kids know we all get our flu shots to protect their brother. It’s an act of love to defend the most vulnerable members of our community.

As we head into winter, medical experts are concerned that a bad flu season added to the COVID-19 pandemic will create a dangerous burden on our healthcare system. That’s why I’m asking you to get a flu shot this year, even if it will be your first one. Not just for my son, but for every person you love who lives with a pre-existing condition. Working together, we can prevent a massive surge on Ohio’s hospital system.

I know vaccines can be a controversial, even politicized, issue. I also know from personal experience how easy it is to get swept up in all the misinformation swirling around scary topics on the internet. It happened to me at my most vulnerable point: after I became a mother to a medically fragile child.

My first son was born with Prader–Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that dramatically increases the chances of a dangerous reaction to vaccinations. The first few years of his life were the most terrifying of mine. My husband and I were forced to make life-or-death decisions for a baby with a rare syndrome we were just starting to understand.

We were 25 years old, working with 11 different specialists and three developmental therapists, and they didn’t always agree with one another. Our son’s delicate life was at stake in every choice we made. We agonized over every call.

As a young mother who had just received life-altering news about my child, I started desperately searching for answers. Online, I found “resources” that preyed on my fears and fed me lies about the safety of vaccines.

But as I learned more from trusted sources, like the incredible doctors and therapists who cared for my son, I learned the truth. In fact, my whole family receives additional vaccinations in order to protect our medically vulnerable child. I also administer a daily injection to my son as part of his medication regimen. I’m thankful every day for the medical professionals who help us navigate the lifelong management of this rare disease.

I’m also thankful, in a different way, for what this experience has taught me. My family and I have many times been failed by a healthcare system in desperate need of improvements. We’ve had to fight every step of the way against predatory laws and insurance barriers to provide my son the lifesaving care he needs. And we’re some of the lucky ones.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Every person should have a right to affordable, quality healthcare. Every child deserves the opportunity to live a healthy and happy life. That’s why I’ve dedicated so much of my life to advocating for patients in Ohio’s mental health and healthcare systems. I even traveled to Washington D.C. to work with Senator Sherrod Brown as we fought to save the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2017. It’s an ongoing fight, but well worth the effort.

Today my son is nine years old. He relies on the vaccinations of others to keep him safe, so he can enjoy a normal childhood. The same is true for so many Ohioans. Anyone living with a weakened immune system or other pre-existing condition needs us all to help slow the spread of common flus, which can have lasting impacts on at-risk bodies.

It’s not just about my family. It’s about all of us. That’s why I’m asking you to do a small, crucial favor for every mother of every medically vulnerable child in Ohio. Take your own family to get their flu shots this year — and make it a yearly tradition.

There is truly strength in numbers. This one simple act of community will save young lives. I can’t express how grateful I am to you for doing it.

For more information on where to get a flu vaccine, click here.

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