According to the CDC, in 2013 more people died from the flu than automobile accidents. That’s about 42,000 people.
Now, one local mother is on a mission to make sure you understand the dangers of the flu.
It was Christmas Day 2013, a day that dramatically altered Patricia McCormick’s life, but she didn’t know it at the time.
Her daughter Ashley McCormick, came down with the flu after returning home from her job as a nanny.
‘’We took her to an urgent care when she first started having symptoms and they told us she had the flu and I was relieved,” said Patricia. “Like oh, it’s just the flu. No big deal.”
But it was. The H1N1, a vicious strain of the virus had been infecting numerous people that year. It sent the 23-year-old to a hospital’s intensive care unit.
“I’m sitting here, like, this is the flu. How is this happening?,” said Patricia.
Ashley’s lungs became severely damaged and would not accept air from a respirator.
Patricia says her daughter was airlifted to another hospital. Doctors, nurses, and techs took turns manually pumping an air bag to fill her lungs while staff frantically searched for a special, rare machine to save her life - but time ran out.
“Then after going through 18 hours of hell of pretty much them trying everything they could to save her life, she died and I remember standing there going it’s just the flu,” said Patricia.
Ashley, who was once a vivacious young woman, died December 27, 2013. She had not gotten the flu shot.
“I did some research and I realized there is about 50 percent of the population gets the flu shot and 50 percent of the population that does not get the flu shot,” said Patricia.
She could not believe the amount of people who were not aware of the extreme dangers of not getting vaccinated.
“I was going to make it my mission to tell Ashley’s story to anyone. I will talk to a stranger in a store. I will talk to a person at the gas station.”
A little over a month after Ashley’s death, the Ashley McCormick Flu Foundation was born. Her poster is in health clinics and some schools in Oakland County.
Patricia now speaks at schools, telling students getting the flu shot can be a matter of life or death. She has also connected with other mothers who have lost children to the deadly virus.
“There’s about 20 of us across the country. It’s on Facebook,” said Patricia. “None of us have met, but I consider them, probably, my best friends.”
Patricia has started a new campaign to help others who may have a weakened immune system and cannot get vaccinated.
“If you are able to get the shot, you are, basically, not only saving your own life, but you are saving the person who cannot get the shot,” said Patricial. “That’s what we are promoting this year.”
Flipping through old photos of her daughter, Patricia feels Ashley is with her every step of the way on this journey.
She says she wants no credit for the thousands of people she has reached so far and just wants to be a vessel to tell Ashley’s story.
“She would probably hate the attention, but I think she would be proud - not necessarily of me, but of this campaign,” said Patricia.
For more information visit http://www.theashleymccormickflufoundation.com/.