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Family Stories

The Hinderliter Story

Advocate:
Charlie Hinderliter; self
Place of Residence:
St. Louis, MO
Survivor:
38-years-old; 2018
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Charlie Hinderliter

Charlie was a healthy 38-year-old whose flu illness put him in the hospital for 58 days.

Charlie Hinderliter was a 38-year-old husband and self-proclaimed political nerd before he became sick with flu. He was generally healthy except for some mild asthma.

On January 19, 2018, Charlie returned from a conference feeling sick. By Tuesday, January 23, he was still feeling ill and went to the doctor, who diagnosed him with influenza A. Charlie’s wife was also diagnosed with influenza A at the same time. By Thursday, Charlie had developed a high fever, increased heart rate, and low blood pressure. His doctor sent him to the emergency room on Thursday and he was discharged later that same day. When he returned to the hospital again the following day, he was immediately admitted.

Charlie was quickly put into a medically induced coma because his flu illness had caused him to suffer from multi-organ failure, pneumonia, and sepsis. The last thing Charlie remembers from the hospital that day is receiving an IV.

When Charlie woke up, he learned that he had been placed on a ventilator to allow his lungs to recover from the pneumonia, dialysis to improve his kidney function, and received multiple blood transfusions. Following the coma, Charlie was put on a feeding tube and three chest tubes were used to drain excess fluid. He also underwent an additional operation. His family had flown in from out of town because Charlie was not expected to survive.

Charlie stayed in the hospital for a total of 58 days. Once discharged from the hospital, he still needed to regain his strength after losing 40 pounds of muscle from fighting off the flu. He went to a skilled nursing facility for three weeks to receive physical and occupational therapy and learn how to function independently. He did not return to work until 7 months after his initial flu illness.

While Charlie has largely recovered from this ordeal, he still has lasting complications. He has hearing loss in his right ear, which is a side effect of medications used to save his life, and still experiences emotional distress. The chest tube and feeding tube also left physical reminders of his flu illness.

Charlie knows firsthand the importance of getting an annual flu vaccine. Charlie had not received a flu vaccine because he didn’t think it was important and he didn’t understand just how serious the flu can be. He figured that since he was a healthy man in his 30s, he was not at risk of serious flu complications. In September 2018, six months after leaving the hospital, Charlie got his first flu vaccine.

Charlie and his wife now share his story to encourage others to get vaccinated. They want others to know that flu is serious and that getting vaccinated can help protect you, your loved ones, and your community, including people who can’t get vaccinated themselves.

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