How can a simple mistake or a basic myth cost a life? I’ll explain.
I just lost my best friend of 59 plus years. She was only 59, and I’ve known her for…well for….59 years. We didn’t have a fight, though we did get in fights from time to time. Sometimes, it was simply fighting over a Barbie doll dress, while other times it was fighting over whether I had the right to talk badly about her future ex-husband.
She left before she said goodbye, though I did get to tell her goodbye. I just don’t know if she heard me.
Ever since she left, my mind has been racing from one golden memory to the next. And our common friends have been adding to those memories, thanks to phone calls and social media. There are stories about camping trips with our parents, lazy afternoons on the Wacissa River, roaming around Washington, DC with a teenaged nanny, and much much more.
My best friend was there for all the special moments in my life. She was my maid of honor, and I was her matron of honor. She was there when I had my children; and I was there when she had hers, all three of them. I was almost there when her 20-year old daughter died, walking into the hospital room immediately after they took her off of life support.
I always worked outside of the home while she was a stay-at-home mom. In the summer we met halfway between North Florida, where I lived, and Central Florida, where she had moved; and my girls went back with her to her house for a week. This was something I was never able to reciprocate, and she never complained. My girls loved it there. She allowed all five of them (her three and my two) to run free like wild Indians playing in the barn, through the line of citrus trees, and the pastures around her home.
We grew apart for some time when I thought her future ex-husband was mistreating her…when I just couldn’t understand why she didn’t throw him out like you would the trash. Many times later, I looked the other way when she got me to ride downtown with her to get something from the grocery store. We often drove a circuitous route through neighborhoods, her looking for his truck parked where it shouldn’t have been. I acted like it was normal, though he was never at home nor was he ever there physically or emotionally for her or the children either.
She was mechanically inclined. She often fixed her own car. While in high school, I remember coming home and finding her underneath her car. I believe it had a transmission problem, that she could fix herself. I think it had something to do with being a manual transmission that would slip out of gear.
And one time she changed out the windows in her own home. My youngest daughter remembers this. She said that Pam had trouble getting several of those windows to fit. She said that Pam would bang on the window, curse some, and then back up to take a good look and rest before going at it again. Her ex never did much of anything around the house, and she did just about everything without too much of a complaint.
Money was tight, but not too tight for him to spend all his vacation time away from her and the kids. So she took her kids on vacations without him and was there for them for just about every event. They went to the beach, to college football games, and to NASCAR races.
When their oldest daughter died at the age of 20, Pam cried but never wavered. She didn’t turn to drugs or alcohol. She was the rock that held her family together; and when her kids left home, her husband left her, too.
As her big sister, I wanted to kick his ass; but deep inside I knew that this was probably the best thing that could have happened to Pam. Hers had been a lonely life. I thought that maybe now she would move on and find someone who would love her and treat her like she deserved.
She was devastated but picked up her life and did well without him. I was so proud of her. Living well was her best revenge. She moved to another state where no family was nearby and bought a home. She was happy, especially when both children moved up there with her.
Finally, I celebrated for her when she met someone new who treated her with the kindness and respect she deserved. They married less than a year ago while in Hawaii. They came back married and excited about their new life together.
Three weeks ago, my sister Pam came down with the flu; but this wasn’t just the standard flu, it was H1N1, also known as swine flu. She got sicker and went to a walk-in clinic after hours. They recommended she go to the hospital, but she said she felt fine and went home with a Z-Pak for the infection in her lungs. She also had a touch of pneumonia.
While waiting for the Z-Pak to take effect, she got sicker until her husband took her to the hospital. Problem was, the flu and pneumonia had already done a lot of damage. She was already in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS. She was moved to a research hospital, where they put her on a ventilator; but her body was never able to repair itself. She was on that ventilator for over two weeks, almost always unconscious. Earlier they had her sedated in a drug-induced coma so she couldn’t fight the tubes running down her throat. Later, they tried to bring her back; but delirium created, even more, problems. In the end, her lungs were irreversibly damaged, and she finally died.
My sister was a strong, healthy 59-year old. She was full of life, and I believe she thought that she just had the flu and would be fine in a few days. I believed in her, too. I never once, until close to the end, thought that she couldn’t beat this thing.
Pam failed to get her flu shot last Fall when her husband had gotten one and came down sick. She thought he had gotten the flu from the shot, a myth that all too many people believe. So she decided against getting her shot, the first time in many years.
This is probably the #1 myth about the flu shot. You cannot catch the flu from the flu shot. The vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection. So people who get sick after receiving a flu vaccination were going to get sick anyway. My sister paid for this myth with her life.
Because of this myth, her two-year-old granddaughter will not remember her sweet Grandmother, and Pam’s daughter’s unborn child won’t know her either.
Which brings me to another great sadness. Pam’s daughter was 40 months pregnant at Pam’s funeral. She was already having contractions. Pam was supposed to be with Kris when Kris brought the baby home from the hospital. Instead, my youngest sister Linda filled in for Pam. Her little granddaughter was born one week after she died.
And all this sadness, because Pam believed the myth, that she could get the flu from a flu shot.