Leanne Samples went to the doctor when she wasn’t feeling well. But neither she nor her husband, Don, was prepared for how severely ill she really was.

WKRN reports the Tennessee mother of two didn’t just have a cold, she was on the verge of death. Don explained the moment he found out:

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, your wife is extremely ill. 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.”

The 46-year-old mom died in 2014, leaving her husband of 22 years to face their two daughters with the heartbreaking news that she was gone:

The hardest thing was going home that night and telling my two little girls that mom wasn’t coming home.

Leanne didn’t have a flu shot, which doctors say could have saved her life.

Dr. Martha Buchanan said:

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. 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.

Don is urging others to face the flu head-on so they won’t be left devastated by losing a loved one like he was. He is using his loss to save lives by warning others of the potentially deadly illness that could be prevented:

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.

Dr. Buchanan simply spelled it out:

A flu vaccine is your best protection against getting the flu.

The father and husband has decided to turn tragedy into hope for others:

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.

Watch Don talk about honoring his wife below:

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