COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Summer is almost over, and kids are headed back to school. As they come back, they are not just sharing their stories from summer vacation, they are also sharing germs.
Last year's outbreak of H1N1 closed down some local schools and claimed hundreds of lives. The Smith family wanted to share their story with parents who might say they are weary of having their kids immunized.
"I never thought about the vaccine the whole time, in the beginning when this was going on the vaccine was never a concern. I did not get my vaccine till the day his leg was amputated," said Renee Smith, who watched her husband suffer from H1N1. For 5 months, he was in the hospital in a medically induced coma. Renee explained it as "a terrible, terrible thing."
Her husband Billy survived. But, this strain of the flu comes with severe complications, one of them being blood clots. They cost her husband his leg. Billy Smith uses his new prosthesis to be an advocate for the vaccine. "Instead of an eye sore, now it is a conversation piece. It just makes me feel good to be able to sit with them and tell my story. Actually bring it to life. I had heard of H1N1 before I had it but I never thought much about it," Billy Smith told News Leader Nine.
Pediatrician Dr. Richard Mansfield said he is a big believer in immunizations, "because of this gentleman's story and there are many more like it. Last year, 340 children in the U.S. died from H1N1 disease. That is scary."
H1N1 can affect any age and any race. It also affects seemingly healthy people. That is why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded their recommendations for who gets the vaccine. Mansfield explained, "Anyone over the age of 6 months should get the influenza vaccine."
H1N1 survivor Billy Smith agrees, "Think of your grand kids and family, and go get your shot."
The regular flu shot will include H1N1. It should be available in September.