Memories of son lost to swine flu complications

BRITTANY PICKETT
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2014
hugh and josephine lavelle
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/Fairfax NZ
MEMORIES: Hugh and Josephine Lavelle with a photo of their son Stephen who died from complications after catching swine flu in 2009.

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After a family deals with a tragic loss from illness, memories of their loved one never fade.

Hugh and Josephine Lavelle, of Invercargill, lost their son Stephen, 27, to complications that arose when he caught swine flu in 2009.

The Southern District Health Board has confirmed four cases of the flu at Southland Hospital during the past week.

Memories of Stephen are never far from his parents' minds.

"Some days are good, some bad," Josephine said.

One piece of advice they would give to people is to get plenty of vitamin C.

When Stephen was transferred to Auckland Hospital, the man in the bed next to him also had suspected swine flu, they said.

His family was asked to turn his life support off but refused, instead they insisted he be given vitamin C - that man is still alive, Hugh said. "It saved that joker's life," he said.

Since childhood Stephen had been sickly but it awas still a shock when he was transferred to Auckland, Josephine said.

He had been unwell before he caught the swine flu virus, Hugh said.

"I think the swine flu was the final nail in the coffin."

Stephen had called his dad to tell him he was sick, he told him to look after himself and get better but the next day his partner called to say Stephen had been admitted to Southland Hospital.

"He never recovered," Hugh said.

In Auckland, Hugh and Josephine had the support of the Marist Brothers, who hosted them and drove them to the hospital to say goodbye to their son.

Stephen died just after they arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night.

"The night he died we hoped like hell, right up to the end," Hugh said.

His parents wanted him to be remembered for his perseverance, not for dying from swine flu. In the weeks before he died, Stephen had qualified as an electrician.

"He took a long time to get his qualification ... he never had the chance to work as a qualified electrician," Hugh said.

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