Calm and caution urged as swine flu cuts down young hockey player

Peter Merrell, CEO of Hill Academy, wasn’t going to get an H1N1 vaccination. He said he didn’t see the point.

He changed his mind following the death recently of Evan Frustaglio, who was a student at the Vaughn-based school. He and a large majority of students and staff soon joined thousands of others across the GTA in line for the shot. “It was a real shock,” he said.

Merrell said students and staff have been shattered by Frustaglio’s death and counsellors have been brought in to help them cope. “They’re very emotional right now,” Merrell said. “They’re confused and they miss Evan.”

Meanwhile the school has ramped up efforts to deal with uncertainty and fear of the virus spreading. Merrell has invited health workers to the academy to speak to students on how to lessen the risk of transferring the bug and how to be on guard for signs of infection.

“We’ve always been cautious,” Merrell said. “But we’re going beyond regular precautions. We don’t want to take any chances.”

Meanwhile Evan’s minor-hockey team, the Mississauga North Stars, have cancelled two games in memory of the 13-year-old, while hockey leagues across the nation rush to balance parent fears, urging both calm and caution.

President of the Mississauga North Stars, Peter Johnson, told the Toronto Observer “we have to make sure [hockey players] wash their hands and don’t share water bottles. So long as both the parents and the coaches are working together we should be okay.”

At Hill Academy meanwhile, Evan’s friends have been planning a vigil to say their final goodbyes: “[He] will always live in our hearts,” Merrell said. “We’ll never be the same, we’re scarred.”

Filed by Saba Taye