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H1N1 Stories Rivet Capitol Hill Event

New America Media, News Report , Khalil Abdullah and Sarah Damian Posted: Jan 29, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Within 72 hours after contracting H1N1 virus last fall, 7-year-old Trevor Ron Lin took his last breath. Months later, the intense pain of losing a loved one remains for his family. Believe me, you dont want to ever walk in my shoes, said Dr. Henry Lin, Trevors father. I am living every parents worst nightmare.

Lin is an accomplished surgeon and a member of several professional medical associations. He said he was at his home in Albany, N.Y., back from a medical assignment in order to spend time with his wife and three children in time for Halloween and happy to go trick-or-treating with them. His eldest daughter, Ashley, age 11, came down with a cough and flu symptoms, but she recovered fairly quickly. Trevors symptoms seemed serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, but there was no Tamiflu available for Trevor. He didnt exhibit any co-morbidities and he simply was not considered a high-risk patient by the hospital staff. He was released. None of Lins children had been vaccinated for H1N1.

The speed with which Trevors condition deteriorated after returning home was alarming. Even with his medical training, Lin could not abate the worsening symptoms -- a high fever, rapid heart rate at 120 beats a minute.

Lin shared the chronology of Trevors death with an audience gathered on Jan. 13 at The Family Room, a day-care center not far off Capitol Hill, to mark National Influenza Vaccination Week, Jan. 10-16. He was joined by Dr. Bruce Gellin, deputy assistant secretary for health and director, National Vaccine Program Office, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and representatives from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Present also was Luke Duvall, an outstanding high school athlete from Arkansas, who had almost lost his life to H1N1. Duvall, whose near-fatal experience was reported by "60 Minutes," said, I wouldnt recommend taking my path to get on TV.

Gellin, who spoke on behalf of DHHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, said, This has been a challenging year for us. Though he said 60 million Americans had been safely vaccinated, he cited the 47 million U.S. H1N1 cases; over 200,000 hospitalizations, and approximately 10,000 deaths, the vast majority in children and adults under 65, as enough statistical evidence to still be vigilant because the flu season has not yet run its course.

Rep. Judy Chu, (D-CA) recounted the death of constituent Monica Rodriguez, a mother of three who was five months pregnant. Vaccinations could have saved her life, said Chu, and prevented this terrible tragedy. Rodriguez had sought medical care from one hospital whose staff sent her home with cough syrup. When her health failed to improve over the next few days, Rodriguez went to a different hospital which admitted her, but it was too late to save her.

Chu said she co-sponsored a congressional resolution for National Influenza Vaccination Week in order to bring more visibility and awareness to the importance of following the CDC guidelines regarding H1N1. Had the first hospital identified Rodriguez as a part of a high-risk group, due to her pregnancy, it is likely she would have been treated appropriately and lived.

Karl Moeller, executive director of the Campaign for Public Health Foundation and Rep. James McGovern, MA, co-chair of the Congressional Study Group on Public Health shared opening remarks with attendees, among them a bevy of mothers and children who had trekked to the event from other parts of the city. None of them know theyre going to get a shot, McGovern said with an almost deadpan chuckle.

Dalila Sorto, a patient at Marys Center for Maternal and Child Care, Inc., in the across-town Adams Morgan community, brought two of her sons. Joel will be 4 in April and Luis, 18-months-old, were vaccinated after the briefing.

Sorto had been waiting to get the vaccinations for them and herself since November. The vaccine wasnt available at the time and her insurance had been cancelled. By the end of December, her insurance was renewed and Mary Center patients were invited to get their vaccinations free at The Family Room press conference. I wasnt too concerned about the swine flu but it was important to get vaccinated, said Sorto through a Spanish-language interpretor.

Sortos follow-through to get shots for her children is just the kind of personal initiative that Lin is championing. Otherwise healthy children continue to die from this serious virus, said Lin, who spoke on behalf of Families Fighting Flu. Of his own anguish, he said, Almost every member of this organization has a similar story to tell.

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