Woman Gets a Flu Shot to Pay Tribute to Her Friend with Cystic Fibrosis 

Sometimes in moments of tragedy, there is a bright silver lining that helps us learn, and that’s exactly what Amber Briggle was aiming to do.

Back in October, Amber posted a photo on Facebook of her getting a flu shot in honor of her friend James who died of complications from cystic fibrosis (CF) after contracting the flu.

It has now gone viral, and since we are well into the holiday and in flu season, it takes on even more meaning.

What is CF?

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition that causes progressive respiratory and digestive system damage. Someone with CF has thick, sticky mucus, versus “healthy” slippery mucus, which builds up in their system.

That build-up can clog airways, trapping bacteria, leading to breathing problems, frequent infections, lung damage and respiratory failure. Additionally, the thick mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes, making it difficult for patients to absorb necessary nutrients.

Cystic fibrosis typically occurs in one in 2,500- 3,500 Caucasian newborns in the US. In other ethnicities, it is even more rare, occurring in one in 17,000 and one in 31,000 African Americans and Asian Americans respectively.

To read more about CF, click here.

‘I owe it to James’

In Amber’s post, she explains that while she hates getting shots, she was determined to get the flu shot in honor of James who wasn’t able to get one because he was immunocompromised; thenhe got very sick because he caught the flu.

The post is not very long, so let’s read it in its entirety:

I hate getting shots. But I owe it to James.

My friend James died last week of cystic fibrosis. He was the toughest sonofagun I’ve ever known. He got his first double lung transplant when he was in his 20s and those lungs kept him alive for more than a decade. He fell in love, got married, and had a son.

Last winter he got the flu. He couldn’t get a flu shot because he was immunocompromised, so he was counting on the rest of us to keep him healthy. Someone didn’t get that shot, got the flu, exposed James, and he got sick.

The flu was so bad that his lungs began to fail. But being the lucky, amazing, walking, fighting miracle that he is, he was able to get a second lung transplant last spring. The procedure was more complicated, though, and his body began rejecting his new lungs. He fought as long and as hard as he could to stay alive.

He died last week and leaves behind a wife, a 3 year old son, and a world full of friends who miss him deeply.

Thanks to organ donation, James lived another 15 years. And thanks to folks getting vaccinations, we were all able to keep him healthy for so long.

Get your flu shot, y’all. It might hurt, but it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as losing someone you love.

It really hadn’t occurred to me the way that Amber put it — how getting a flu shot or just generally keeping healthy practices when it comes to contagious illnesses is as much about your own personal health as it is about thinking of others. 

This part really sticks with me:

…so he was counting on the rest of us to keep him healthy. Someone didn’t get that shot, got the flu, exposed James, and he got sick.

So let James be a reminder for us to do our best to maintain healthy practices where we can. And thank you, Amber, for paying tribute to James in this way.

Click here for Amber’s Facebook. 

How are you keeping healthy during the holiday season? Share your stories, thoughts, and hopes with the Patient Worthy community!

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