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On H1N1 Anniversary, Some Still Live With Regret

By Madeline Holler |

jessica-holt-joey-holt-cnn-h1n1-flu-pandemic-vaccineBy the time H1N1 vaccines reached the West Coast, where I live, it was hard to ignore that nagging feeling that, while standing in remarkably long lines last year, I was overreacting. “Was I participating in a nationwide panic?” I thought more than once. After all, I wasn’t also spending hours a week tracking down seasonal flu shots. Just H1N1 — it sounded so serious.

As the so-called “swine flu” pandemic marks its anniversary this month — and the CDC and health experts all over the nation look back on the numbers — one mother still lives with her regret. Jessica Holt had heard all about H1N1, but knew it wasn’t going to happen to her.

Then her son got sent home from school, and the very worst happened. The very worst.

She watched him die from the flu.

The Southern California mother tells CNN she regrets her decision to not bother with vaccines everyday. Sadly, she’s also blaming herself.

Because of my negligence, because I was not personally educated, there’s no greater blame or regret than that.”

Holt’s story is heartbreaking — and certainly wasn’t the norm — but should she really put all the blame on herself? There was so much confusing information — from whether the shots were effective to when one could return to school and work after the fever. For every expert that said, “Get the shot!” there was the echo of some doctor saying, “Nah, don’t bother.” I know just as many parents who were all over the vaccine news as I do parents who bragged they weren’t going to bother.

Though it’s only spring, I’m wondering about next fall and whether we’ll still be hearing about H1N1 or some new strain. Will there be a different — and better  — system for getting out the vaccines.

Will more people make plans to get them or, as I kind of suspect, will far fewer? Will Jessica Holt’s story pop up in anyone’s mind?

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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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10 thoughts on “On H1N1 Anniversary, Some Still Live With Regret

  1. [...] One Year After H1N1 Panic, a Mother Lives With Regret [...]

  2. andre says:

    There are many websites that explain the H1N1 vs flu symptoms. The differentiating symptomps are: Vomiting, Diarrhea. Many children have high fever, or vomiting for one day. High fever and vomiting combined for two days is a recepie for dehydration (however must have been mild enough to be dismissed by a doctor). The aftermath of vaccination or not is just ridiculous, it would probably not have made a differrence whatsoever is my unsubstantiated opinion. Treatment of dehydration could have saved a life. Fever is reduced with over the counter drugs and cold compresses. People die of pneumonia which can be combatted with antibiotics. The H1N1 was definetly the starter in the Holter case, but it saddens me that healthy people die of symptoms that can and has been controlled since beginning of time with very lowtech remedies (bed rest, fever remedies). I would like to reflect with people who live in the tropics, and will succumb to malaria with little choice of escape.

  3. cheri says:

    good reminder….I was just the other day wondering if I was a total dork for rushing around looking for the shots early last fall. Guess not.

  4. Catem says:

    Here’s what I know from some basic research. It’s not like your average flu in that the h1n1 replicates in the lungs and is easy to dismiss. The people at high risk are those with asthma and other lung/pulmonary issues. Rehydration is not the magic bullet as per regular flu cases but it certainly can’t hurt.
    Bottom line, if you have any lung issues, get the vaccine. I did and I’m glad, especially having heard about several cases locally (SF Bay Area) that affected otherwise healthy people, young and old.

  5. Nikole Mase says:

    At least a hundred persons in our city have been infected with the H1N1 virus. I was very scared to get infected with this disease during the pandemic,~~

  6. Marj says:

    I didn’t used to bother with flu shots. Then I got pregnant. Thinking about my sons made me a lot less flippant about it. Now I get them, and so do they.

  7. BigLittleDays says:

    Hmm, hindsight is 20/20. I just wonder, if long-term side effects occur, how many people will be kicking themselves for getting the vaccine. It’s all a giant crap-shoot with a newly manufactured vaccine. No short term side effects does not equal no downside to getting the shot. My physician did not even offer it for her patients, and I tend to agree with that judgement. The risks did not outweigh the benefits, and I don’t vaccinate against anything that can be managed with supportive care (IV fluids, etc.). Write a very special episode of Grey’s Anatomy, if you will, but it just makes sense to me. I’m enjoying your blog, though!

  8. Ann says:

    I’ve been reading and hearing from some people that the H1N1 thing was clearly a false alarm. Isn’t it possible that the big push to get people vaccinated actually worked and helped to keep it from exploding in the population?

  9. [...] children and teens especially hard.  H1N1 hospitalized thousands of children, with 276 official pediatric deaths, and the virus was especially dangerous for pregnant [...]

  10. timmy says:

    @BigLIttleDays No it is not possible as not enough people were vaccinated to keep it from exploding.

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