Life-threatening flu cases lead doctors to urge importance of flu vaccine
PHOENIX (Jan. 30, 2014) – An unusually high number of otherwise healthy young to middle-aged adults are developing severe breathing difficulty from flu that requires life support known as Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO. ECMO is used only after medicine and a breathing machine (ventilator) have failed to improve a patient’s condition.
“Even though our ICUs provide the most advanced life support possible, some young, strong patients have just barely survived by the skin of their teeth,” said Robert Raschke, MD, Intensivist at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.
The ECMO machine is essentially an artifial lung. When a patient is placed on ECMO, blood flows through the ECMO tubing where it receives oxygen from the machine. This can help the patient survive until their own lungs recover.
Dr. Raschke said the high numbers of patients with life-threatening flu are taxing the capacity of Critical Care units across the entire state, including the state’s ECMO providers that include Phoenix-based Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, Mayo Clinic Hospital Phoenix, Banner Children’s at Cardon Children’s Medical Center, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, University of Arizona Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Critical care units across the state are working together to coordinate their resources for the sickest patients.
Jaime Ison is a 27-year-old personal trainer who developed flu symptoms late last week and within just a few days was hospitalized. Unable to breathe, he was put on ECMO at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. Even though Jaime’s wife is a nurse, he had decided not to get the flu vaccine.
“I know that I would not be alive today if it was not for ECMO,” Jaime said.
“People think of the flu as just a stomach bug,” said Krissy Ison, Jaime’s wife. “But, that’s not what the flu is. It was frightening how quickly Jaime went from a healthy young father of our two year old, to a dangerously sick man hooked up to a machine.”
Medical professionals across the state urge anyone who has not been vaccinated this fall or winter to do so immediately. It’s not too late to prevent a potentially life-threatening case of the flu. Anyone who experiences symptoms of the flu – such as fever, cough, sore throat, headache, body aches and overall weakness – should call their health care provider. Treatment can shorten the duration of symptoms if started early. For those who have the flu and experience difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider immediately.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the predominant strain of influenza circulating this season is the same virus that caused the 2009 pandemic, Influenza A (H1N1). The H1N1 strain is unique in that in 2009, it caused severe illness and even death in those less than 65 years of age and without underlying health conditions.
Doctors encourage people to protect themselves from illness by washing their hands thoroughly, using hand sanitizers, covering their mouth when they sneeze or cough by using the crook in their elbow rather than their hands; and wiping down all hard surfaces with disinfectant wipes.
Headquartered in Phoenix, Banner Health is one of the largest, nonprofit health care systems in the country. The system manages 24 acute-care hospitals, the Banner Health Network and Banner Medical Group, long-term care centers, outpatient surgery centers and an array of other services including family clinics, home care and hospice services, and a nursing registry. Banner Health is in seven states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.