LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. – Chris O’Neal and his family still haven't fully processed just how quickly Glen O’Neal died after being diagnosed with the flu.
“It's so cliche, but you hear people say, 'You never think it would happen to you.' But that's exactly what happened. It happened to us. It happened to my dad. It took him away from us,” said Chris, Glen’s eldest son.
Chris O'Neal said his 57-year-old father was diagnosed with Type A of the flu.
“Monday, he went into the hospital, and they said he had the flu," he said. "Told him to go home, drink some water, take some medicine and so on. Then on Tuesday, he want back to the hospital and this time they gave him some stronger medication because it had progressed. Wednesday at noon, he called the ambulance for himself. He lost consciousness before he got to the hospital, and he never regained consciousness, and he passed away Thursday evening."
Chris O'Neal said his father took care of his body, worked out frequently and lived life in a way that brought joy to anyone he encountered.
“Words can't possibly express," he said. "I know a lot of people say that, but there aren't words for what he did. He carried God's love for everybody on this planet in ways that nobody I've ever seen has."
But one thing Chris’ father didn't do was get a flu shot. That's a trend Lougene Marsh, the Johnson County Department of Health director, said she's surprised to see.
“We know -- of the 1,400 cases that have been reported to our department through our sentinel sites this year -- that only 21 percent of them had been vaccinated.” Marsh said. “It’s important because it is your best protection for avoiding the flu. Secondly, if you get the vaccination and you do indeed contract the flu, it’s highly likely that your case is going to be shorter and milder.”
Now, the O'Neal family is working to increase awareness so that no other family has to say goodbye to someone they love.
“It's so important to make sure that you`re protected for your family, for those that care about you, to make sure that you`re there for them,” O'Neal said.
Marsh said due to the fact this flu season is particularly bad, people need to take proper precautions to protect themselves and others.
“If you are feeling ill, in order to protect the rest of us, it’s really important that you stay home," she said. "So if you’re running a fever, if you’re feeling achy and tired, sneezing and coughing, stay home."