Dad who lost his little girl to the flu encourages others to get vaccinated

Posted at 11:46 AM, Feb 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-16 11:46:06-05

The CDC says so far this flu season at least 63 children nationwide lost their lives to the flu.  

One dad from West Bloomfield knows the pain the parents of those children are feeling. He lost his little girl to the flu when she was only 5 years old. 

“I went to bed one day, woke up the next and my life was changed completely,” said Zachary Yaksich. 

Yaksich says Alana, his 5-year-old daughter, woke up and told him and her mom she didn’t feel well. They decided to stay home and take it easy for the day. 

“She didn’t have alarming symptoms of any kind. She had a low-grade fever, 99 degrees and was tired,” said Yaksich. 

Alana seemed tired, but okay. She even helped decorate the snowman her dad and brother made. 

“She played with her brothers. She had pizza for dinner, had ice cream and went to bed. A couple hours after she went to bed she woke up. She had a 106 degree temperature,” said Yaksich.  

His little girl was throwing up uncontrollably.  He called an ambulance.  She went into convulsions and then into a coma. When she got to the hospital - she was fighting for her life.  Doctors did tests and told her parents she had the flu. 

“At that point I actually had a sigh of relief and said, oh it is only the flu. The doctor said, you don’t understand. The flu has attacked your daughter’s brain and she is not going to live,” said Yaksich. 

They waited several days to take her off life support, but Alana lost her life. 

Her dad dedicated himself to educating others about the importance of vaccinating children through Alana’s Foundation. It works to raise awareness about how dangerous the flu can be, and to encourage people to get the flu shot. 

Alana had not received her flu shot because at the time,  the shot was recommended by the CDC for those six years old and over. After Yaksich shared his story, the CDC changed the recommendation. 

“The more people that get it, and the recommendation is that everybody in America over six months old get it, the less circulating virus,”  said Dr. Allison Weinmann. 

Dr. Weinmann is the Senior Staff Infectious Disease Physician for the Henry Ford Health System.  She says it is never too late in the season to get the flu shot - and it saves lives.  

“It is the single most effective way to protect your child,” said Dr. Weinmann. 

“She was a normal, healthy, happy little girl and if she would have been vaccinated I believe she would have still been here today. I encourage people to get their children vaccinated,” said Yaksich.