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Family Stories

The Rasmussen Family

FFF Advocate:
Lisa Rasmussen (wife)
Place of Residence:
Montana City, Montana
Date of Death:
April 7, 2016
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Paul Rasmussen

Paul was a healthy 57-year-old who had never before gotten the flu. He didn’t realize his first flu illness could kill him. 

Paul was a healthy, 57-year-old retired police officer. He enjoyed fishing, boating, camping, and brewing homemade beer. He did not like to visit doctors but didn’t need to because he was rarely sick. He was stubborn about preventative medicine, including flu shots.

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. He was prescribed some medicine for his cough and sent home. Paul and Lisa canceled their trip.

By Sunday, Paul still did not feel better. He returned again to urgent care where he was prescribed antibiotics and sent home. His cough continued to worsen and Tuesday morning, over a week after his symptoms first started, he went to the local emergency room where he was admitted and sent to the intensive care unit (ICU). Since the local hospital did not have the necessary equipment to treat him, he was then airlifted to a hospital 90 miles away in Great Falls, Montana.

In Great Falls, Paul was hospitalized in the ICU for 31 days. He was placed on a respirator 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. He was kept heavily sedated on a respirator the whole time he was in the ICU, with the exception of two days during which he was able to communicate a little 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 dad died. Paul passed away on April 7, 2016, just four days before his 29th wedding anniversary.

Although his wife Lisa worked for the Montana Immunization Program and had received her annual flu vaccine, Paul did not believe he needed an annual flu vaccine and preferred instead to rely on what he called herd immunity. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that the first time he caught the flu that it would kill him. Lisa also had a case of flu during the week when Paul was initially diagnosed, but believes that since she had been vaccinated, her case was milder and did not require hospitalization.

To honor Paul, their family and friends share his story with others in hopes of raising awareness about the dangers of flu and the importance of annual flu vaccination. Paul’s best friend, who never got flu shots in the past, gets his shot every year on Paul’s birthday, October 4th. Paul’s wife, Lisa, wants others to know that flu does not discriminate, regardless of age or health status. 

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