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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Student’s legacy inspires vaccine drive

I’m sitting here at my computer in Houston, Texas and wanted to let you all know that this morning, I “Took One for Raymond” by having my annual flu shot.

For those of you who may be new to the UNM campus or have no idea what I’m talking about, I’d like to explain.

Raymond is my son. He was a freshman nuclear engineering major in the fall of 2009. He was from Houston and a student in the engineering living/learning community, living on campus at the Redondo Village apartments.

He absolutely loved everything about being a student at UNM: eating at La Posada, taking 18 hours of classes that were very challenging and taught by enthusiastic faculty, and meeting other students from all over the state of New Mexico, the United States and the world.

Like many of you, he belonged to campus organizations such as HESA, ANES and Hillel, and he attended athletic games and residence hall events. He made many new friends, with whom he shared great times. Everything was going great … until he caught the flu. That’s when life as we knew it changed forever.

In the fall of 2009, there was a flu pandemic. Even if you had taken your seasonal flu shot (which Raymond had), you needed an extra immunization for protection against the H1N1 virus.

That vaccine was unavailable to those who weren’t high-risk patients. Even then, one couldn’t find the vaccine until well into December 2009 and January 2010. Unfortunately, that was too late for our Raymond. Within five days of contracting the H1N1 virus (swine flu), he died at UNM Hospital on Nov. 11, 2009 despite the valiant efforts of the staff of physicians and nurses of the ECMO team in the ICU

The H1N1 flu virus attacked Raymond’s lungs and heart, doing irreparable damage that ultimately led to his sudden death.

Since that time, our family has done a number of things to forever link Raymond (and our family) with UNM, because that is what Raymond would have wanted us to do.

In his memory, we began the “Take One for Raymond” initiative last year, which is now the Take One for Raymond Foundation and is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization.

Last year, the final flu clinic on the UNM campus was a “Take One for Raymond” event, and almost 600 faculty, staff and students were immunized for the flu within a four-hour period.

This year, all four on-campus flu clinics will be “Take One for Raymond” events. The first one will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the SUB Atriu (shac.unm.edu/influenza.htm for more details). It is the goal of the UNM Student Health and Counseling Center, the UNM Hospital and the Plotkin family for all students, faculty and staff who are 18 years of age and older to go and receive their free flu shot for Raymond this flu season.

Our family wants to particularly reach out this year to all those students living in the residence halls, as our Raymond did. The flu is a very serious virus. Even in a non-pandemic year, one can become quite ill and miss days of school or work. It is also contagious. College students are not invincible and do get sick.

If you have had flu shots in the past or have been advised by your families and hometown physicians to get one this year, please listen and do so. You will not only help protect yourself, but you will be protecting those around you as well.

All we ask is that everyone considers taking a flu shot, and if you’re on the fence about it, please think about it again. No family wants to hear that a loved one is sick in bed with the flu.

It is our intent to educate and inform everyone about the importance of flu immunization. We do this because we wouldn’t want any other family to have to go through what our family has these past (almost) two years now without our son. That is why we will do everything we can do to ask each of you to take the flu shot, if you are able to do so.

If you aren’t sure or have questions about whether you can take a flu shot, don’t hesitate to ask your family physician, health provider, student health clinic or just come by and ask at the flu clinic. The flu shot this year does have protection against several flu strains, including H1N1.

We hope that everyone on the UNM campus will come out in large numbers to “Take One for Raymond” this flu season because Raymond is no longer able to take one himself.

When you see the “Take One for Raymond” logo, please know that it was specially designed with UNM in mind (note the colors), the way that Raymond would have wanted, forever to be associated with the University of New Mexico.

Here’s hoping that UNM students, faculty and staff will “Take One for Raymond” this flu season.

Elaine S. Plotkin is Raymond Plotkin’s mother and Co-Founder of the “Take One for Raymond” Foundation

Editor’s Note: To make a donation to the endowed Raymond E. Plotkin Engineering Scholarship on the UNM campus, checks should be made payable to the UNM Foundation (memo Raymond Plotkin Scholarship) and mailed to Courtney Ganstine, UNM School of Engineering, MSC01 1140, 1 University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131. For more information, please call 2770664 or email cou rtg@unm.edu