MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With cold and flu season upon us, health care professionals are urging people to get their flu shots--including Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman. Her husband--James--died from a respiratory disease this past April.
He got it after he contracted the flu. Now Chapman is encouraging everyone to get the vaccine before it's too late.
"This was a picture that was made on Inauguration Day--one month prior to my husband going in the hospital," says Chapman.
Chapman never knew the photograph with her husband would become her solace after his death.
"This is a picture that has really helped me over the last few months. It reminds me of a very precious moment in time."
James got sick with the flu in January. He went to the hospital and while there developed pneumonia.
He then developed ARDS--Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome--a condition that prevents the lungs from filling with air keeping oxygen from vital organs.
"He did die. And I buried him on my 49th birthday," says Chapman.
James was 50 years old. Chapman never imagined she'd lose him after only 23 years of marriage. But she says ARDS isn't age specific.
"My biggest regret is there are people out there who have no idea."
Since then, Chapman has strongly encouraged people to get flu shots because she says ARDS often develops in patients who have the flu.
"Why in the world anybody would risk that chance of losing anyone they love at any age because they were scared of a needle, because they were afraid it would make them sick for a week? Really inexcusable in today's world."
Chapman hopes her message inspires people to get the flu vaccine each year--anything to keep others from experiencing her pain.
"The highs will never be as high for me. But thank God, the lows will never be as low."
Chapman says thankfully people can recover from ARDS. However, they're often met with intense therapy afterwards because they may have to learn to walk, swallow, or eat again.
Chapman says she is currently working with the U.S. Congress to get a national ARDS day.