Seriousness of virus can’t be downplayed says patient who spent 5 weeks in a coma
When Dale Altrows showed up at the ER with fever, blurry vision and a dry cough, doctors weren’t sure what he had.
Altrows arrived at the Jewish General Hospital on May 17, about the same time as H1N1 cases leveled off in Mexico, considered the epicentre of the virus, and World Health Organization experts warned of a potential worldwide outbreak.
Officials at the Jewish weren’t taking any chances. They suspected Altrows had pneumonia, but they also tested him for swine flu. Twice.
The first test came back negative but Altrows’s health deteriorated rapidly. The infection in his lung took over. He needed help breathing. His family was warned that he might not make it.
A second test confirmed H1N1 virus. “I don’t remember anything after that,” Altrows said.
He awoke in ICU five weeks later – freaked out because he couldn’t walk or talk. “He was in a medically induced coma,” said his partner, Carl Olssen.
Now that he’s home, Altrows says that swine flu fears are no hype even though stories of infection no longer make front-page headlines.
“The seriousness of the flu should not be downplayed,” said Altrows, who initially went to a hospital in LaSalle, where he was prescribed antibiotics. He landed at the Jewish two days later when his symptoms worsened.
Altrows’s family filled him in on what had happened. He was placed in isolation and heavily sedated.
Despite getting doses of Tamiflu, his organs started shutting down.
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