Blake Crane was an active, healthy 16-year-old in early 2020. A popular student at Marshfield High School, he played baseball and loved being in the band.
When his family took a vacation to go snowboarding in February 2020, they had no idea the tragedy that was about to hit them. The day before the trip, Crane came home from school not feeling well. But he wanted to go, so the family made the trip. The next morning, he woke up with a severe sore throat and went to the emergency room.
Two days later, Crane was dead after influenza type B devastated his body, leading to organ failure and eventually cardiac arrest.
Before 2020, Crane and his family made certain to get a flu shot every year, but that year life got hectic and they never did get the shot.
After their son died, Tony and Becky Crane decided to do what they could to make something good come out of their tragedy. They approached the Coos Bay School District and eventually the Waterfall Clinic about hosting flu vaccine clinics at local schools in memory of their son.
Two weeks ago, Becky Crane attended a clinic at Eastside Elementary and received her vaccine. Last week, Tony Crane attended a clinic at Marshfield Junior High to offer his support to the efforts.
Lance Nelson with the Waterfall Clinic said working with local schools and the Crane family is something the clinic looks forward to. Over the last month or so, Waterfall has brought an RV to different schools in the area to offer vaccines, both for the flu and, this year, for COVID-19.
“We started doing this in the memory of Blake Crane,” Nelson said. “Coos Bay schools approached us and asked if we would do a flu shot vaccine clinic in honor of his memory. We’ve done schools in both North Bend and Coos Bay.”
The clinics are free and open to anyone in the community. Because of state law, no one under the age of 15 can be vaccinated for the flu or anything else without a parental signature.
“We have received some vaccines through the Oregon Health Authority and CDC programs,” Nelson said. “We’re not charging anything or asking for insurance cards. We’re just providing a service.”
The clinic at Eastside Elementary was the busiest of the fall, with more than 170 people receiving vaccines. Although COVID shots were offered, the vast majority of people came for the flu shot.
Nelson said Waterfall makes no money at the clinics, but filling a community need makes it worthwhile.
“A lot of what we do is focus on community need,” he said. “What we live by is if we do what’s right, the money will come in.”
Nelson said while some schools have drawn big crowds and others, smaller one, offering the flu shots in something that needs to be done. Just looking back at Blake Crane is proof.
“I think it’s been worthwhile,” he said. “I think it’s disappointing some people thing they need to protest. I’m for free speech. I don’t know how you can be be anti-medical care but for free speech.”
Nelson was referring to a small group of protestors who came to the junior high last week, holding signs and yelling as people came to the clinic. The signs protested offering vaccines, especially the COVID vaccine, on school campuses.
Nelson said the protests made little sense because no student at the junior high and no students at any of the elementary schools can receive a vaccine without parental consent. Every person has to fill out a form, and if a child has a form not signed by their parents, they will not get a vaccine.
During the protest, those involved even began yelling at Tony Crane as he joined the effort to encourage flu shots.
“It shouldn’t be controversial,” Nelson said.
In fact, he believes everyone should get a flu shot every year. While the flu vaccine is never perfect, it does work and does save lives.
“I think the idea of the flu vaccine is to do the best you can to keep yourself safe and to protect the community,” Nelson said. “Even if you’re strong and healthy, as Blake was, you can die with it. We know communities with a strong vaccine turnout can stop it from being a pandemic.”
While Waterfall has concluded its school visits this year, Nelson said flu vaccines are available at any Waterfall Clinic or through any health provider in the area.