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Family Stories

The McGowan Family

FFF Advocate:
Diane McGowan (mother)
Place of Residence:
Nazareth, PA
Date of Death:
February 9, 2005
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Martin McGowan 

Martin died of complications from influenza just 24 hours after his first symptom appeared.

On February 8, 2005, 15-year-old Martin McGowan took an afternoon nap before trying out for the high school baseball team. His mother noticed that he looked a little under the weather, but Martin insisted that he felt fine – there was no way he would miss the highly-anticipated tryouts. Martin attended the baseball tryouts but was exhausted afterward. He also complained that his legs hurt from running. When Martin got home, he watched a little TV and went to bed.

The next morning at 2:30 a.m. Martin’s mother heard him vomiting in the bathroom. He had a fever of 102 degrees. His mother gave him some medicine and he went back to bed. Martin later awoke at 4:30 a.m. and began to vomit once again. The pain in his legs had also increased. In addition to giving Martin plenty of fluids, his mother tried easing the pain in his legs by giving him a warm bath and applying ointment to the area, but nothing seemed to work. As the aching in his legs worsened, Martin’s mother called the doctor who suggested that either Martin come in for an appointment that afternoon or his mother take him to the emergency room. Martin said he needed to go to the emergency room.

When he arrived at the hospital, the ER doctor took his vitals and did an initial evaluation. By this time, Martin’s lips were white so they administered an IV. Martin was tested for influenza, which came back positive. As a result of the influenza disease attacking his muscles, Martin developed compartment syndrome, which limited his blood circulation and caused severe pain. The intense running that Martin had done the night before escalated his condition from muscle aches to compartment syndrome in his legs. The doctor explained that if the blood flowing to Martin’s legs ceased for an extended period of time, they might have to amputate his legs. Martin needed to be operated on as soon as possible.

Martin was taken into surgery that afternoon. However, during the surgery, his heart stopped beating. Doctors attempted to revive him but they were unsuccessful. On February 9, 2005, Martin died of complications from influenza just 24 hours after his first symptom appeared. Martin had not been vaccinated against the flu.

In memory of Martin, the McGowan family has established a Scholarship Fund to coincide with Martin’s love of baseball. The family has set up the M.A.R.T.I.N. (May All Receive Their Immunizations Now) Flu Foundation. The non-profit organization’s mission is to provide information about the misconceptions of the influenza virus so that individuals understand the importance of immunization. The foundation achieves its mission by educating parents, children and athletic groups about the seriousness of the flu and its complications. For more information, please visit www.martinflufoundation.org.

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