A Flu Story

Julie shares the story of her infant son, Ian, who lost his life to influenza (flu) at just six months old.

At 6 ½ months old, our son Ian was the picture of health. He was our sunshine and laughed all the time. On December 16, 2003, he began showing signs of being sick. He awoke from his morning nap and vomited. We took him to the pediatrician and were told that Ian’s symptoms may be influenza (flu). They sent us home and told us that if Ian’s symptoms didn’t improve, then we should schedule a follow-up visit. Later that evening, Ian started having trouble breathing and developed a fever. We decided to take Ian to a local pediatric urgent care facility. The doctor there told us that Ian had tested negative for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), but he was positive for flu. The doctor told us to treat Ian’s symptoms and follow up in 48 hours if he did not show signs of improvement.

After a long night, we thought Ian was getting better. He wasn’t struggling to breathe, and his fever had gone down. We thought the worst of his illness was over at that point. Later that same day, Ian suddenly stopped breathing. We started rescue breathing and rushed him to the hospital because we only lived a few miles away. The doctors and medical team at the hospital worked to revive Ian, but they were unable to save his life. Ian died from complications of influenza A on December 17, 2003, just 30 hours after showing his first symptom.

Ian had received his first flu vaccine about two weeks earlier and was scheduled to receive a second dose in a couple weeks (children aged 6 months through 8 years who’ve never had a flu vaccine before need two doses, spaced at least 4 weeks apart). Both of Ian’s older brothers were also vaccinated against the flu at the same time Ian got his first shot. Neither of them got sick. My husband and I had not received a flu vaccine and we both tested positive for influenza A.

Since losing Ian, our family started a non-profit organization called Ian’s Rainbow Flu Foundation, which helps to educate people about the seriousness of influenza. We decided on that name because right after Ian died, the most beautiful rainbow appeared over the hospital.

Every year we hold a memorial walk and flu vaccination clinics in our community. Promoting vaccination as part of a healthy lifestyle is also a family affair. Ian’s Uncle Mike, who’s the Chief Executive Officer of USA Boxing, developed a very successful awareness campaign in 2021-2022 called Knock-Out COVID-19 that shared information about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines. This campaign reached millions of people through community events, social media, livestreams, and a website.

It's our family’s hope that by hearing Ian’s story, parents will understand the importance of routine immunizations, including annual flu vaccination, for their children and families.


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