Grieving Knoxville husband warns of flu dangers after wife dies

(Courtesy: WATE)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A mourning husband recounted the moment a doctor told him what no family wants to hear – that his wife of 22 years was likely dying from the flu.

“About 5:30 in the morning, I got a phone call from the pulmonologist who went to see her that morning and he said, ‘I’m going to be very honest with you,’” Don Samples said. “’Your wife is extremely ill.’ He said, ‘She has a severe case of the flu and I’m going to be very honest with you. Most people who have this, don’t survive.’”

His wife Leanne died at just 46 years old in 2014. Samples said her legacy still lives on.

“The hardest thing was going home that night and telling my two little girls that mom wasn’t coming home,” Samples said. “It was a struggle. It was hard, but I wanted to find a way to honor her and get the word out about the flu.”

Samples teamed up with the Knox County health department to encourage his family, friends and community to make a decision that could be life-saving.

“A flu vaccine is your best protection against getting the flu,” Dr. Martha Buchanan said.

Leanne Samples did not get a flu shot, and doctors said doing so could have prevented her death.

Buchanan said Leanne’s tragic story is not the only one and thousands of other Americans lose their lives to the flu every year.

“The ultimate danger from the flu is that you die and over 30,000 people die each year from the flu in the United States,” she said. “That’s not in another country. That’s in the United States. Short of passing away, people can end up in the hospital, have to be on a ventilator, get secondary pneumonia from the flu.”

And though the loss of his wife still hurts, Samples wants to honor her memory in the best way he knows how – by educating others about the dangers of the flu and hopefully save a life or two in the process.

“It’s not something to play with. It’s real, so I’m just trying to keep people from going through what I went through and what transpired in my life, because it wasn’t a fun thing to do, wasn’t an easy thing to do, it was difficult, and there’s a simple way to keep it from happening and getting the flu shot would have stopped it,” Samples said.