Tragic Story of Pregnancy, Miscarriage and Two Lives Threatened by Flu
Jan 23, 2014

Last night I read an article on the CNN Health pages that would haunt me in my sleep.  It was entitled Woman with flu miscarries, battles for her life.

A 'Love for Leslie' Facebook page keeps friends and family updated on Leslie Creekmore's condition.

A ‘Love for Leslie’ Facebook page keeps friends and family updated on Leslie Creekmore’s condition.

A young married couple, Chris and Leslie Creekmore, both shared symptoms of the flu earlier this month.  While Chris was able to recover, his wife Leslie, who was 20 weeks pregnant, was admitted to the hospital on January 11th.

In researching tips for a healthy pregnancy, the couple came across a recommendation to avoid the flu vaccine in the first trimester.  Since their OB-GYN agreed, stating that he was wary of giving flu shots during the first trimester, Leslie had planned to get vaccinated on January 13th when she went in for her 20-week ultrasound.  Instead, she succumbed to the flu and was put on a ventilator that day.

She has since been unconscious, suffering a miscarriage, a collapsed lung and a surgery to receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy which provides heart-lung bypass support and circulates blood through an artificial lung back to her body.

While Leslie continues to fight for her life, Chris is speaking out and spreading this message:

Vaccinate yourself against the flu.

As I read this tragic story, I couldn’t help but see the faces of all my friends and relatives who are expecting new babies in their lives.  Life is so fragile and I only wish that every expectant couple would be aware of the benefits of flu vaccine during pregnancy.

Dr. Rosanna Gray-Swain, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital where Leslie Creekmore is being cared for, explains that

“Pregnant women are five times more likely to end up in the ICU or have severe complications related to the flu than non-pregnant women who get infected with the flu.”

And while life-threatening developments like Leslie’s are generally rare, they are not unheard of.

Unfortunately, expectant couples like the Creekmores are often mislead by inaccurate information and outdated recommendations.  This is why we continue to emphasize the recommendation that have been made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2004;  pregnant women should receive a flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in order to protect themselves and their unborn child against serious complications from the flu.

The Creekmore’s tragedy is further exasperated by the fact that their own OB-GYN provided guidance that countered the health recommendations of both the CDC and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) who has stated, 

“Vaccination early in the season and regardless of gestational age is optimal.”

The reality is that pregnancy can be hard on a woman’s body by putting extra stress on the heart and lungs.  Pregnancy can also affect the immune system and increase a woman risk of becoming severely ill from flu.  Since studies have found that the flu can actually increases a woman’s risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight, it only makes sense that a woman should try to mitigate these risks with a seasonal influenza vaccine.

Not only can are we reassured that the flu shot is safe during pregnancy, but studies support the fact that vaccination during pregnancy offers additional benefits as well.  For instance,

Immunization during pregnancy even helps protect the unborn baby through passive transfer of maternal antibodies.

  • An abstract published by the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society suggests influenza vaccination during the second and third trimester of pregnancy has the potential to confer up to 35 times more protection in the children of those who were vaccinated during pregnancy,  as compared to those who were not.  And that is crucial protection for newborns who can’t be vaccinated until they are six months of age.
  • Mothers who have been vaccinated for flu during pregnancy provide their babies with extra protection against acute respiratory infections.

Of course, there are a few points to keep in mind.  Anyone who receive the flu vaccine may still get the flu, but it is suggested that their case would likely be less severe and complications unlikely.  While the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women at any trimester, only the injectable vaccine is advised, as the nasal spray vaccine has not been approved for use in pregnant women.

Considering the Creekmore’s experience, it’s no wonder that Chris is encouraging flu vaccination.  Not only has he personally suffered with influenza, but the flu has already claimed the life of his child and continues to threaten the life of his wife.  In honor of their, please take a moment to share these flu vaccine recommendations with anyone you know who may be expecting a child or a grandchild anytime in the future.  Spare them from this heartbreak and encourage them to visit the credible sources listed below so that they can be well-informed about the benefits of flu vaccination.

And if it’s in your heart to help the Creekmore family, visit their Love For Leslie Facebook page or make a donation to help with their expenses on their GoFundMe page.

For Other Pregnancy & Flu Vaccine Resources, Visit the Following Sites: Pregnant Women

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Pregnant Women & Influenza

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Seasonal Flu Vaccine Safety & Pregnant Women Q&A

Vaccinate Your Baby:  Influenza Vaccines

Families Fighting Flu

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