his used to be Jill Promoli’s favourite time of year. Between Halloween, her birthday in November, Christmas and the birthdays of her young children, the months were filled with love and festivities.“We like to celebrate and make a big deal out of all these things, because life is short,” she says. But this year, the 34-year-old Mississauga mom isn’t sure how she will make it through. 

It has been less than a year since Promoli lost her 2-year-old son Jude to a strain of the influenza virus, commonly known as the flu, and she is still coming to terms with the devastating loss.

“I wake up and go to bed every single day remembering that Jude is not here anymore, and it’s awful,” she says.

Jude’s story

Promoli’s twin boys, Thomas and Jude, were a dynamic duo. Jude was the leader.  Whatever mischief he got into, Thomas would follow. So when Promoli walked into the boys’ nursery and only Thomas popped up from his crib to greet her, she instantly knew something was wrong.

Within an hour of Promoli finding her son’s motionless body in his crib, starting compressions, calling paramedics and getting to a hospital, Jude was pronounced dead. It was Mother’s Day weekend.

“Even now with all the information we have, it’s impossible to wrap our heads around,” says Promoli. “It’s not what you expect to happen, ever.”

Protect each other

The coroner determined that though both the twins, as well as Promoli’s older six-year-old daughter Isla had gotten their immunizations, Jude had died of the flu — a viral infection that can be extremely serious for infants, seniors, and those who are immunocompromised. According to Statistics Canada, the virus kills 3,500 Canadians each year.

Although, as seen in Jude’s tragic case, the flu shot does not succeed in making everyone immune to the infection, Promoli has made it her mission to advocate for the vaccine, explaining that it’s about more than the individual. 

“The flu had to be passed along from a lot of people before it made its way to Jude in May,” she says. This is the basis of herd immunity, the idea that if more people get immunized, it will help to reduce the overall risk of contracting an illness.
“It’s not just about protecting ourselves, it’s about protecting the people around us,” says Promoli.

A mother’s message

Promoli describes the loss that her family has suffered as “hell on earth,” but she is determined to use Jude’s story to spread information about the importance of getting the flu shot.

With Jude gone, Promoli says she is keeping his memory alive by sharing stories about her vivacious little boy with her surviving children.

“Jude is not here, but he’s still very much a part of us.”