- FFF Advocate:
- Place of Residence:
- Brownsburg, Indiana
- 53 years old, 2018
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Shari was a healthy mom and wife whose flu illness led to 41 days in the ICU and multiple amputations.
Shari’s Flu Illness
Shari was a healthy mom and wife. She loved to cook and entertain family and friends at her home in Indiana. For 20 years, she ran an in-home daycare, but her life radically changed when she became sick with flu.
In February 2018, Shari was feeling sick and went to a local urgent care. The facility was short on flu tests, but given her symptoms and history of bronchitis, they diagnosed her with bronchitis and she received medication.
Four days later, she woke up with difficulty breathing to the point where she could not stand. Her husband rushed her to a small, local hospital. There, tests showed that the flu virus was attacking her heart and she was transferred to a bigger hospital in another town.
After being transferred, Shari immediately went into surgery to place a small propeller pump to help her heart function improve and increase her blood pressure. After recovering from the surgery, she went into cardiac arrest. The doctors were able to revive her heart, but her family was told she would only have six hours to live if they did not try to put her on extracorporeal membrane oxygen (ECMO) life support. Shari’s heart stopped three more times during the time it took to place her on the ECMO machine, but thankfully she survived.
Shari was on ECMO for nine days and her heart function improved from 5% to about 25%. After they took her off ECMO, her heart was functioning normally, which was a shock to all the doctors and nurses. However, she still had a long way to go as she was on a ventilator for her lungs and undergoing dialysis for her kidneys.
The medical staff was concerned about the circulation to her limbs due to being on ECMO for nine days. Eventually, her left leg was amputated above the knee and her right foot was amputated at the metatarsal.
After 41 days in the intensive care unit (ICU), Shari was transferred to a hospital for rehabilitation. There, she worked on learning how to begin talking, swallowing, eating, and sitting up again, all while still on dialysis and under continuous supervision to preserve her remaining limbs. Shari spent 57 days in that rehabilitation hospital before she was transferred to another facility closer to home where she spent another 5 months before returning home.
Shari is still attempting to overcome many setbacks from the complications of influenza. Since returning home, Shari has been on home intravenous therapy with antibiotics due to multiple infections. Her right foot has yet to heal and she cannot put weight on it. Once she receives another surgery on her right foot, she will begin working on using a prosthetic on her left leg. Additionally, her fingers are unable to bend due to circulation damage from being on ECMO, and she lost her right index finger. She continues to adapt to this new lifestyle and medical challenges.
Prioritizing Annual Flu Vaccination Is Essential
Shari’s family wants others to know that the flu should be taken seriously. They, like many others, did not know how that the flu can deteriorate someone’s condition so quickly and drastically. Though she usually got vaccinated against flu, that flu season, Shari’s busy schedule took priority and she forgot to take the time to get a flu vaccine. Now, her entire family gets their flu vaccines as soon as they become available and they encourage others to do the same.
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