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Family Stories

The Pulgini Family

FFF Advocate:
Michael Pulgini (husband)
Place of Residence:
Rosarito, MX/San Diego, CA
Date of Death:
May 8, 2016
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Cecilia Pulgini

Cecilia was a healthy 45-year-old woman before she lost her life to flu after eight agonizing days in the hospital.

Cecilia and her husband Michael lived in the California-Mexico border town of Rosarito. In Spring 2016, Michael got sick with flu. Michael had previously refused a flu shot on account of the fact that he never got sick and had a vague memory of feeling ill after receiving a shot years earlier. His 45-year-old wife, Cecilia, had never considered a flu shot either because she was a healthy adult and didn’t feel like the vaccine was necessary. 

After Michael suffered a week with flu, Cecilia started to show signs of illness with a runny nose, body aches, and pains. After about 36 hours her upper lip swelled up enormously, and she visited a doctor who prescribed some medication to help with the pain and swelling. About eight or nine days after Cecilia first started exhibiting flu symptoms, she still wasn’t feeling well and started having some difficulty breathing. This time, after a return visit to the doctor, she received an injection to help open up her airways because her chief complaint now was shortness of breath. After returning home the swelling in her lip went down and the shortness of breath seemed much better.

Just 30 hours later, Cecilia was suddenly in terrible distress. She’d been in bed for about a day and a half and her breathing was very rapid and shallow.  She kept insisting that she didn’t want to go to the hospital, but it was clear to her husband that something was very wrong. She was so weak that she couldn’t walk, so a friend came over and helped Michael carry her to the car so he could bring her to the ER. 

At the hospital, a chest x-ray showed one lung was completely covered in puss and fluid from an infection. Doctors explained that all that time she’s had a simple cold sore, she’d also had the influenza virus replicating inside her body and it had hit her full force, completely overpowering her body’s ability to fight the influenza infection.

The doctor also told Michael something else he will never forget.

If she had been vaccinated against influenza, there was a 90% chance she wouldn’t be here like this.”

Cecilia was put into a medically-induced coma, intubated and put on a ventilator since she was unable to breathe on her own. She was put in an isolation room where all you could here were the sounds of that machine, chugging away.

Because she was young and strong, Michael believed she would pull through. However, he watched his beautiful wife lay in that hospital bed fighting for her life for eight agonizing days. He explains it as the hardest thing he has ever endured and stated it was worse than what he witnessed during military combat. Eventually, her kidneys started to fail, and on the morning of the eighth day, her body couldn’t fight anymore. Cecilia ultimately died of pneumonia and complications brought on by influenza. 

Michael, like many others, believed it was not possible for flu to kill his perfectly healthy 45-year-old wife considering all that modern medicine can do. What he regrets the most is that he and Cecilia had trivialized the flu and did not use the best preventive measure available: an annual flu shot. 

In the season Cecilia lost her life to flu, there were 67 adults who died from flu in San Diego County and 25 of those were between the ages of 35 and 64. Michael now knows that the flu virus is aggressive, sneaky, and potentially deadly, but he worries about those who still don’t realize the dangers of flu. He shares Cecilia’s story to let other adults know that no one is invincible to flu, even if you believe you are because you are young, strong, or healthy. He only wishes he had known all this before flu took his wife’s life.

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