Jenny Spell came forward to tell her harrowing story to encourage people to get the flu vaccine. The 18-year-old ended up on an ECMO heart-lung machine for five days in the fall of 2014 and eventually had to have a kidney transplant.
She is now enrolled at the University of Florida in the fall to study pre-pharmacy. People Magazine covered her graduation from King’s Academy.
“Jenny and I were happy to have had an opportunity to speak to People about her story,” her mother, Anne Spell, said.
“She faced tremendous suffering with both resilience and faith, and I am very proud of her. Together, she and I hope that her story will make a life-saving difference in the lives of others through flu vaccination and organ donation awareness.”
The teenager spent 241 days — about two-thirds of a year — at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital after going into cardiogenic shock, meaning the heart can’t pump enough blood to sustain your body. Her organs started failing one by one. Liver. Pancreas. Gall bladder. Kidneys. She contracted a deadly fungal infection and suffered an aneurysm in her abdomen.
“Jenny was the sickest patient I’ve ever cared for with the flu and probably one of the sickest patients I’ve ever cared for,” said Dr. Gerald Lavandosky, managing director at Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida at Joe DiMaggio.
To read the Palm Beach Post’s feature on Jenny click here.
“We are beginning to see an increase in flu activity in our county. Now is a good time to remind all that a flu shot is an excellent preventive measure,” said Dr. Alina Alonso, Director, Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.
Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. Celeste Philip said most people view the flu as a minimal threat, but Floridians should take flu infection seriously.
Besides a flu shot, the Department of Health says it also essential to practice good hygiene by properly and frequently washing your hands to help prevent the spread of seasonal flu.
“Make it a habit to clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces in your home, school or office. You can take additional steps to ward off the flu by coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow and avoiding touching your face,” the Health Department reminds.
Some experts say marketing may be overtaking medical wisdom since it’s unclear how long the immunity imparted by the vaccine lasts, particularly in seniors.
An early flu shot is better than no flu shot at all, but the science is uncertain how long your immunity will last if you get the shot in late summer as opposed to early fall. Flu season generally peaks in mid-winter or beyond.
“If you’re over 65, don’t get the flu vaccine in September. Or August. It’s a marketing scheme,” said Laura Haynes, an immunologist at the University of Connecticut Center on Aging.
Tom Charland, founder and CEO of Merchant Medicine, said medical services on demand appeals to millennials but when it comes to late summer flu shots, “It’s a way to get people into the store to buy other things.”
Read the whole debate on the issue at CNN by clicking here.