Health Team

After life-threatening scare, Sampson County family makes flu vaccine a priority

Posted September 30, 2015
Updated October 1, 2015

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— Flu vaccines are already available as the 2015-16 season nears, but if statistics hold up, less than half of the population will get a flu shot.

After a life-threatening ordeal a year ago, one Sampson County family says it will never skip the vaccine again.

Fifteen-year-old Lindsey Tew first had issues on Feb. 13. She stayed home from school because of a sore throat and a fever.

Three days later, her pediatrician said she had pneumonia and needed emergency care. She had the flu and the superbug MRSA.

"The combination of influenza and MRSA pneumonia can be quite devastating," Duke University Hospital pediatric critical care physician Ira Cheifetz said.

At WakeMed, doctors put Tew on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, which bypasses the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to the blood and exhale carbon dioxide.

A portable ECMO unit allowed Tew to be transferred to Duke for specialized care.

"Because of the pressure we had to take care of more and more critically ill patients, the systems became smaller, simpler and safer," Cheifetz said of the ECMO units, which underwent major changes following the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009.

Twe spent a month on the ECMO machine before her condition improved.

"Almost miraculously, over the course of a couple of days, she got better," Cheifetz said.

Twe's mother, Kacey, said she's a "true miracle."

Several months later, Lindsey's scars are fading. She's returned to her active life, including being on the cheerleading squad at Midway High School in Spivey's Corner.

"I've never had a flu shot in my life, but I'm getting one this year," she said.

Last year, the flu season peaked earlier than normal, around the Christmas holiday. State health officials say everyone should get vaccinated as soon as possible.

After a person is vaccinated, it takes about two weeks to develop full immunity to influenza. Those looking to get flu shots can attend one of several flu vaccine clinics at the Wake County Public Health Center, at 10 Sunnybrook Road.

The clinics will be offered each Thursday in October from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Clinic E and 3 to 7 p.m. in Room 194. The cost for a flu vaccine is $30. There is no charge for uninsured, pregnant women or children who qualify for the federal government's Vaccines for Children Program.

Other flu vaccine clinics will be held at the following locations in Wake County:

Fuquay-Varina: Monday-Friday, beginning Oct. 2 (Southern Regional Center, 130 N. Judd Parkway)
Wake Forest: Monday-Friday, (Northern Regional Center, 350 E. Holding Ave.)
Zebulon: Monday-Friday (Eastern Regional Center, 1002 Dogwood Dr.)


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