Paul was a healthy 57-year-old who enjoyed fishing, boating, camping, and brewing homemade beer. He did not like to visit doctors and was stubborn about preventative medicine, including flu vaccines. Many adults like Paul choose not to get a flu vaccine. Despite vaccination benefits, less than half of U.S. adults received an annual flu vaccine over the past ten flu seasons.
In late February 2016, Paul and his wife, Lisa, had planned a trip to visit family and friends in Arizona. On Thursday, the day of their planned departure, Paul hadn’t been feeling well for three days. Although he did not like to visit doctors, he decided to go to a local urgent care where was diagnosed with influenza A. Paul and Lisa canceled their trip.
A week later, his cough continued to worsen, so he went to the local emergency room where he was admitted and sent to the intensive care unit (ICU). He was then airlifted to another hospital 90 miles away in Great Falls, Montana.
Paul was hospitalized in the ICU for 31 days. He was placed on a ventilator and his treatments included a central line, feeding tube, tracheostomy, catheter, and bowel tube. Paul’s lungs were found to be weeping blood as a result of his illness. Lung issues and sepsis are among the serious complications that can result from an influenza infection. He was kept heavily sedated and on a ventilator to improve his breathing, with the exception of two days when he was able to communicate a bit with his family.
As time progressed, Paul developed septic shock and kidney failure. Eventually, all of his organs shut down and his doctors had exhausted all medical options to save his life. He was kept alive long enough for his son to travel to the hospital to say goodbye, but unfortunately, his daughter couldn’t get there in time and had to be on the phone when her father died. Paul passed away just four days before his 29th wedding anniversary. Sadly, on average every flu season, upwards of 61,000 people in the U.S. lose their lives to flu.
Although his wife Lisa was a vaccine advocate and had received her annual flu vaccine, Paul did not believe he needed to get vaccinated because he had never been sick with flu before. Research shows that adults who are vaccinated against influenza are 82% less likely to be admitted to the ICU. For those who do end up in the ICU, vaccinated patients spend 4 fewer days being treated in the ICU. Sadly, the one time Paul got sick, a flu vaccine may have saved his life.
Lisa also had a case of flu, but believes that since she was vaccinated, she was protected from the devastating complications Paul experienced. People who are vaccinated may still get sick with flu, but experience less severe symptoms and are less likely to require hospitalization.
Story credited to Families Fighting Flu.