This year, my son, Clancy, caught the flu and it nearly killed him.
Sick with what I thought was a cold, he fell "asleep" in the car but when I tried to rouse him he wouldn't wake up. I drove straight to the local medical clinic and rushed in, calling for a doctor, like a madwoman in a movie. The GPs hurried out. Even though Clancy was breathing, he seemed unconscious. An ambulance was called and while we waited, I rocked him in my arms, wishing he would open his eyes.
The paramedics appeared and lifted him from me, talking loudly to him all the while. Miraculously, his legs started to walk and his eyes fluttered open. The ambos tested all his vitals but were convinced that he was just a bit tired from the virus and that, after a rest, he would be okay.
The next morning I went to work, knowing that my son was unwell, but reassured that he would be fine with my mum at home to look after him while he rested.
It was a decision I came to regret.
At work, I had my phone in my pocket and every so often, Clancy would face time me from his iPad and beg me to come home. I had classes to teach and was committed to them so couldn't leave. The last time Clancy made contact I could see that his skin was pale and his eyes unfocused.
"I don't feel right, mum," he said. Then, collapsing, he dropped the iPad. I called his name, repeatedly, but he didn't reply and all I could see was the ceiling of the bedroom. Mum found him on the floor, non-responsive and not breathing.
I ran from my workplace immediately. On the road, I had to pull over for three ambulances to pass, sirens blaring and lights flashing, and I was certain those vehicles were going to my house. When I arrived home, the same three ambulances, and a fire engine, were parked outside and I still didn't know whether Clancy was dead or alive.
Thankfully, my mum was trained in CPR and she had got him breathing again before the ambos showed up. By the time I entered the house, Clancy was sitting upright, skin white and clammy, but alive.
He was taken to hospital in an ambulance and put on a drip for 24 hours to rehydrate. A myriad of tests were done to discover the source of his illness.
Clancy was the first case of Influenza B to present to our local hospital this season, before everyone realised exactly how deadly this particular strain would be. He was, appropriately, treated as an "infectious person" at the hospital. Every doctor, nurse, orderly, food server, cleaner and visitor was required to wear a face mask and gown to prevent infection. We felt like we were in an episode of CSI where the contagious are quarantined in an effort to spare the masses.
This horrifying brush with death that Clancy endured has reminded me that my children are the very most important things in my life. They add so much fun and joy (and drama!) to my life. I love dropping them off at school and I love picking them up at the end of each day. I love their stories and their successes, their creations and their passions.
While kids are still kids; they get tired and cranky, they fight, and they don't eat their vegetables every night, they are my greatest gifts and all I want for them is health and happiness.
Before this winter, I believed the flu shot to be something for school teachers, medical staff and old people. According to the Federal Health Department, there were 224,163 confirmed notifications of influenza in Australia this year, and 72 flu-related deaths. This is far more than in previous winters and has highlighted the need for vaccinations, once again.
Children are able to receive a flu shot from a GP from the age of six months. Vaccinations are like an insurance policy against crippling disease and deadly outcomes. After this year's dramas, it's not something I'm willing to take a chance on.
According to the Immunise Australia Program, the flu shot is "the single most effective way of preventing the spread of the flu in the community".
I'll be booking my whole family in at the end of April next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.