H1N1 survivor advocates for immunization

It was almost two years ago that Lance McNamara nearly lost his life to influenza.

“It will be two years in December, two weeks before Christmas; Lance had come down with the flu,” recalls Ryan McNamara, Lance’s older brother.

Lance thought he was suffering from a cold but was admitted to the Misericordia Community Hospital a few days later, where he developed multiple organ failure.

Since that day, Lance has been confined to a hospital bed, unable to walk and barely able to talk. In May, he transitioned to a continuing care facility in northwest Edmonton. 

“Lance went from being a healthy 26-year-old man at that time to somebody who has had his entire life changed, and it was because of the flu. When you’re young you feel like you’re invincible and you don’t need to get the flu shot. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. What has happened now is that Lance has had his entire life rearranged,” says Ryan.

Now 28, Lance has seen first-hand what H1N1 can do. “I don’t think anyone can imagine how frustrating it would be to be trapped inside your body and not be able to express what you need to. It’s this feeling that his whole body has turned against him. The thing that is supposed to get you through life is preventing you from moving forward. He speaks a lot about that,” explains Ryan. 

Lance’s mother Irene and Ryan are often by Lance’s side cheering him on and working tirelessly to get him to a place where he can enjoy life again. In a year and a half, they have seen Lance make progress. 

Ryan, Lance and Irene McNamara share their story to encourage people to get immunized against influenza.

“There’s been improvement in Lance’s speech; as well, Lance has begun to make slow improvements with his movements. He’s able to grasp hands and move part of his leg and the upper muscle in one of his arms. Those are all good signs,” says Ryan.

This time of year is a harsh reminder for the McNamara family. They can’t stress enough how important it is to get vaccinated

“There are risks with anything but the benefits in getting the flu shot far outweigh the risks. If Lance knew what was going to be in store for him, I can guarantee you he would be the first one in line getting the flu shot. Every single person I meet, I encourage them to get the flu shot because it can be the difference between living a happy, healthy, active, productive life and not even making it. We are fortunate enough that Lance made it through H1N1; for many people they don’t,” says Ryan.

Last year, only 30 per cent of Albertans rolled up their sleeves to get the annual flu vaccine. 

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