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Flu Brings Year of Pandemonium to Prince Albert Family

Note: Content provided by the Saskatchewan Health Authority and edited for length

Randeen Tomiak is at home with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Blake, and newborn son, Lukas. Today was to have been a glorious and rare day for the busy mother and teacher. Blake was to go to daycare and her eldest child, Cadence, would be at soccer camp. Randeen planned to be home with the baby, indulging herself with one or even two post-maternity naps.

Family in park
After the trials of the past year, Randeen and her family are getting the flu shot this year.

But, as life would have it, sleep would not be in the cards. Blake was home with a bad cough, finger painting to while away the time.

"Our daughter has caught everything this year," said Randeen, who lives with her husband, Brett Morrison, and their three children in Prince Albert.

"She was in the hospital a few times over the year. She had cellulitis twice. She's had the (stomach) flu almost every month. Right now she's on antibiotics for a bladder infection and she's on a puffer because she has a chest cold."

The reason? Randeen thinks it is because Blake got H1N1 in December 2018.

"I kept taking her in to the clinic and saying something is not right," said Randeen of her listless child. Her concern intensified when she could not rouse Blake from her nap.

"I could tell she was asleep. Her eyes were so dark and her breathing was very low and funny."

Randeen took her daughter to Prince Albert's Victoria Hospital where over the course of a week she was diagnosed with influenza caused by the H1N1 virus.

"I've never been so scared. It was terrifying, even once we got to Emergency. It was hard to watch them do bloodwork on her little arms."

Over the next couple of weeks, Blake was severely ill. "She would get up for a half hour a day. She was so lethargic. She was dehydrated. Her oxygen levels were very low. We were back and forth to the hospital. She was so sick."

The virus didn't stop with Blake.

Both Randeen and her husband, Brett Morrison, fell ill, too. Brett found out he had the virus while away for work in North Battleford, and Randeen confirmed her illness at a doctor's appointment where she also learned she was pregnant.

"When I looked at my husband and my daughter, you wouldn't know they had the same thing. He looked like he didn't feel that great. She just looked awful. It seemed they were on two different spectrums.

"It showed how people can have the virus and be spreading some nasty flu around and have no idea."

Out of concern for both her and her toddler, the family doctor gave them both a dose of the antiviral Tamiflu to stop the flu's progression. All but Cadence were stricken with the virus.

"Total chaos," is how Randeen describes that time in their lives and the months since. "Everyone was afraid of us. We were like walking germs."

Unsurprisingly, the 2018 Christmas celebration with the Tomiak-Morrison extended family was delayed. Delaying, re-arranging and postponing scheduled activities has become a necessary part of life since the family got the flu.

Randeen was sick multiple times during her pregnancy and even hospitalized on her due date, not to give birth, but because of a nasty virus. The attending doctor told Randeen she was even too sick to induce labour.

"It was really scary. They were monitoring the baby and his heart rate was 190. It was nerve wracking."

Randeen said most years she and her family get the flu vaccine but last year wasn't one of them.

She and her husband vow that this year, and every year going forward, will be different.

"Now, we're always going to be getting it. I don't want another year of mayhem in our house."

Randeen hopes the birth of baby Lukas, who arrived as a hearty nine-pounder on August 8, is the beginning of a new, healthier chapter.

To learn more about the influenza vaccine or to find a flu clinic near you, go to 4flu.ca and Saskatchewan.ca/flu.

Flu infographic

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