HomeNewsArticle Display

Wright-Patterson AFB mother, physician tells story of heartbreaking loss

Doctors Anthony and Laura Sidari and sons Cameron and Tristan receive flu shots at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center’s immunization clinic. (Contributed photo)

Doctors Anthony and Laura Sidari and sons Cameron and Tristan receive flu shots at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center’s immunization clinic on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (Courtesy photo)

Four-year-old Leon Sidari died Dec. 25, 2017. He passed away from bacterial pneumonia secondary to the flu, two days after the onset of symptoms. (Contributed photo)

Four-year-old Leon Sidari passed away from bacterial pneumonia following the flu two days after the onset of symptoms on Dec. 25, 2017. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- Dr. Laura Sidari is speaking out because her family suffered a horrendous loss last Christmas Day.

The Air Force psychiatrist at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and her husband, Dr. Anthony Sidari, a rheumatologist, lost their 4-year-old son, Leon, to complications of influenza. He passed away at a medical facility elsewhere from bacterial pneumonia following the flu, two days following onset of symptoms on Dec. 23.

Although the Sidari family had vaccinated for the flu in prior seasons, Leon died prior to receiving his flu shot that season, Sidari said. He had been scheduled to be vaccinated Jan. 3.

“Last year, if I had seen a story like my own, I would have prioritized the flu shot differently,” she said. “As a physician, even I was unaware of the significant risk that the flu posed to my healthy child. Through reaching out to others, including other physician parents, I have discovered that I am not alone in that misconception.”

“Leon’s story places a name and a face – a beautiful and loved and special human being – behind the numbers that are often buried in databases and scattered across headlines,” Sidari said. “As difficult as it is for me as a mother, I share Leon’s story so that someday other families may not have to. As I have devastatingly learned through Leon, flu-related complications are often aggressive and difficult to treat.”

Healthy children may be more at risk for suffering a flu-related death. Research of flu-related deaths provides evidence for the flu shot providing a 65 percent reduction in risk for flu-related mortality in healthy children, and a 41 percent reduction in mortality risk for children with pre-existing medical issues. Approximately 80 percent of children who pass away each season from flu-related complications did not have their flu shot that season.

“Being healthy is a risk factor for rapid death,” Sidari said. “I didn’t even know that as a physician. Compared to other pediatric populations, they die more quickly.”

As of Oct. 6, there have been more than 180 children lost to the 2017-2018 influenza season, according to online information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these children died before reaching the hospital.

Sidari is quick to point out that she is speaking only from her perspective as a mother – not a pediatric specialist – who made sure her children received every vaccination recommended. After Leon’s death, she tried to learn as much as she could about influenza in the hope that the Sidari family’s then 2-year-old son, Tristan, and 7-week-old son, Cameron, would not also pass away.

“I really wanted to understand the likelihood that we were going to lose our other children,” she said. “That’s how I found this information.”

The mother, with the full support of her husband, now wants to dispel the common misconception that good health affords protection against the flu, and the entire Sidari family received flu shots at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center immunization clinic the first week of October.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend the flu shot for everyone older than the age of 6 months with few medical exceptions.

The Sidari family faces this holiday season without their first-born, who loved Christmas. His mother remembers him as good big brother who was kind and sensitive, loved cats and gave compliments. Small things are what mattered to him.

“Nothing prepares you as a parent for coming home and having to unwrap Christmas presents for a child who never can,” she said.

“As parents, there are many demands on our time and energy, particularly around the holidays,” Sidari said. “The flu shot can too easily and understandably slip through the cracks due to busy schedules.

“In my experience, it is worth prioritizing this time of the year. This is a necessary appointment. Bringing awareness to the flu shot will not bring Leon back. I do, however, believe in the healing power of connecting with others,” she said.

She also encourages people to explore multiple options if flu shots are unavailable through their usual source.

“It is my hope that Leon’s story can help save lives,” Sidari said. “Especially for children like Leon, I encourage other families to consider making the flu shot a priority, this season and every season. It’s the best way of reducing risk we have. #FluShotsForLeon.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
An #Airman assigned @TeamMinot crouches in rotor wash in the Turtle Mountain State Forest, during a field training… https://t.co/ERqU5OnEJ0
Threatening weather does not stop once hurricane season ends, and it becomes the mission of the #HurricaneHunters t… https://t.co/ad5VuNO6mP
Virtual, augmented reality may hold key to future #AirForce training. Find out how: https://t.co/FAcEaj4w6f https://t.co/7tdpioVtu9
#MentorMonday: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mu… https://t.co/PjGcBMVliB
Our partnerships and @NATO allies help keep our mission moving forward. https://t.co/5R4ZB7XqXs
$40M up for grabs! Find out how your small business can make some cash while helping solve some of the #USAF's toug… https://t.co/0AEmZhZGdI
RT @SecAFOfficial: Happy birthday 🎉 to #USAF Col & #space pioneer Buzz Aldrin @TheRealBuzz ✈️🚀 https://t.co/gIsicyA1uk
#Innovation! First metallic #3Dprinted part installed on an operational #F22 Raptor @HAFB. The new part will not co… https://t.co/rkKr1jtThg
Practice makes perfect! These #SpecOps medical experts maintain readiness & relevance for all operations, today and… https://t.co/WMpdt9LTGe
Remembering a woman who changed the world: Millicent Young, Women #AirForce Service Pilot in World War II, dies at… https://t.co/mri1QRXOC8
From fast food to future technology, one #Airman found a new calling @AirNatlGuard and decided to ditch the fryer f… https://t.co/I8qX7GpH4n
An #F35 sits on the flightline @LukeAFB, Jan. 10. Six different aircraft maintenance units from #TeamLuke competed… https://t.co/OxVMxf7Ayw
It takes a lot of coordination to clear a flightline of snow, but @TeamMisawa--a place that averaged more than 147… https://t.co/VQ4qjdsxFz
RT @SecAFOfficial: It is our responsibility to maintain a strong national defense @usairforce https://t.co/JXzhtqdMrg
When lives are on the line, there is no margin for error. Combat Search & Rescue #Airmen at #MoodyAFB conduct pre-d… https://t.co/AsWzaa1I00
RT @AFResearchLab: When a product goes from lab to battlefield, you can expect some amazing capabilities. See what work we've done to assis…
A B-2 Spirit bomber from @Whiteman_AFB, conducts aerial refueling near @JointBasePHH, during an interoperability tr… https://t.co/wzM5GvcviS
The #AirForce Life Cycle Management Center team is working to acquire next generation fixed-wing helmet.… https://t.co/LJ2xeCLdf2
Capt Jerry Yellin, #WWII fighter pilot who flew the last combat mission in August 1945, was laid to rest… https://t.co/XnSB9Yo3PC
75 years of @WrightPattAFB! Take a walk down memory lane with the leaders in military aviation development. https://t.co/vmjwxLUydg