Faces of Flu
October 31, 2022
Excerpts from Faces of Sepsis™
It is flu season in the U.S. – are you prepared?
Influenza, the flu, is a common viral infection that spreads very easily. Any kind of infection, including the flu, can cause sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, sepsis can progress to severe sepsis and septic shock. Survivors may be left with life-changing effects, such as amputations or organ damage. Sepsis also kills. More than 350,000 adults in the U.S. die from sepsis every year. That’s one person every 90 seconds.
People share their experiences, or the experiences of their loved one, in our Faces of Sepsis™ community. Below, read excerpts from people who had their flu progress to life-threatening or life-taking sepsis.
“On Sunday, November 24 of 2013, I woke up at 5 AM with a severe fever, chills, headache, nausea, difficulty breathing, and sore throat. The night before I’d started to feel ill, but nothing like this. As a mom of five kids (aged 1-11), who had been passing around the flu and strep throat, I could have seen this coming. But moms don’t get sick days, right? Usually, I push through; however, this was different. I sent the clan to church with my husband, promising to stay in bed and rest so I’d be better by the afternoon. But that was a lie. I had never felt so sick! Turns out, I had never been this sick…
“The paramedics whisked me away, and they kept me alive on that ambulance ride to the ER. Once there, I was diagnosed with the flu, strep, and pneumonia, which quickly developed into sepsis. Then septic shock. My prognosis was grim.
“One by one, my organs failed. I was ventilated, placed into a medically induced coma. My lungs were so saturated with fluid that they couldn’t retain oxygen, and my blood pressure kept dropping. I was given very powerful, even experimental, blood pressure medications. I was on full dialysis. I had a feeding tube and a tracheotomy. As a last-ditch effort, I was suspended upside down and rotated in a rotoprone bed in hopes it would help drain my lungs. It worked.
“However, the powerful medications and treatments that saved my organs pulled the blood, oxygen, and nutrients from my limbs. My hands and feet essentially died – they shriveled, blackened, and became necrotic. Surgeons were forced to amputate. After 100 days, six different hospitals, one quadruple amputation surgery, and a miracle, I survived.”
Read Kristan’s full story of survival here or watch her tell her story, below.
“On January 20th of 2020 our 5-year-old son Lochlin passed away from flu – sepsis. Saturday he was tired with a low-grade fever and some minor body aches. By Sunday he was feeling much better and was up playing with his brothers, until Sunday night he took a turn for the worst. We took him to an urgent care where he was diagnosed with influenza type A and mild dehydration. Monday afternoon January 20th, 2020 he passed away from flu – sepsis.
“He had such a big heart, and we want to continue spreading his love and joy for life through the Nonprofit we’ve created in his name. As we continue to grow, we have one simple goal in mind, and that is to prevent the deadly impacts of infectious diseases such as the flu in our community. No one should have to experience the pain our family has been through from a vaccine preventable disease. Which is why it is our mission to prevent, educate, and drive awareness to how serious influenza and other infectious disease like it can be!”
Read about Lochlin’s sepsis battle and what his family is doing to raise awareness in his memory here.
“On the 1st of March, 2019, I was at work and became aware of a tickle in my throat, and thought that I was starting to come down with a cold. As the days went on, my cold got worse. Fever and flu-like symptoms started, and I made the massive error in thinking that if I rested in bed, I would give myself time to get rid of it naturally. Unfortunately, I had contracted a mutated version of the swine flu, but I wasn’t aware of this at the time.
“My condition worsened and the cough turned into a bad chest infection. Antibiotics were prescribed, but I had left it too late. I developed pneumonia, and after becoming confused and unable to talk, my wife called for an ambulance. I was fortunate that the paramedics knew immediately that I was septic, and rushed me to the hospital. Quick diagnosis was key in my survival.
“I spent six weeks in a coma. The flu caused sepsis, and my organs began to fail. On two different occasions my wife was told to prepare for the worst, as everything was starting to fail. I was kept alive by machines that controlled my breathing, and I needed dialysis for my kidneys as they stopped working also. Somehow, after many weeks, I started to improve and eventually I was brought out of sedation. I was nearly 56 pounds lighter, and had lost most of it off my muscles. I had to learn to walk again, to sit upright again, and to try to find my voice again after my tracheostomy.
“Unfortunately, sepsis had damaged my nervous system in multiple places. I could not swallow, talk, or drink fluids for many weeks. My left leg was completely numb, and I had severe nerve pain in my feet and left leg. It has taken me nearly a year from first being rushed to hospital to feel anything like back to normal. Sepsis has left me permanently nerve-damaged in my left leg, but I count myself lucky to even be able to write this story. I am getting ready to return to work, and it has been a long, painful and startling recovery.”
Read more about Paul’s scary experience with sepsis here.
What can you do to help prevent the flu?
Get your annual flu vaccination! Getting a vaccination is your best protection. Vaccines help reduce your risk of catching the virus – up to 60% some years. If you can’t get the vaccine for health reasons, encourage your family members, friends, and coworkers to be vaccinated. If they reduce their risk of getting the flu, your risk of catching it becomes lower.
Although it’s not possible to guarantee 100% protection, influenza can often be prevented with a few simple precautions:
- Hand washing is the number one weapon against influenza. Washing your hands after touching potentially contaminated objects (such as door handles) has been proven to effectively reduce the chances of you catching the flu. If you have the flu, washing your hands after touching your face can keep you from spreading the virus to others.
- Sneezing or coughing into your elbow is a good way to reduce flu virus transmission. Unlike sneezing or coughing into your hand, your elbow won’t touch common objects that others will touch.
- Wearing a mask if you are in a crowded area or you are near people who may have the flu.
- If you have the flu, avoiding others while you have symptoms and for 24 hours after the symptoms have gone away.
- Eating a healthy diet. Malnutrition, not consuming enough nutrients for your needs, can lower your body’s ability to fight infection.
Learn more about the flu, sepsis, and what you can do to prevent catching the flu this winter at Sepsis.org/flu.
Read more sepsis and flu experiences, here.
Funding for this campaign was provided by an unrestricted educational grant from CSL Seqirus.