Tough lessons about value of flu shots

kari.plog@thenewstribune.comFebruary 21, 2014 

Bruce Swanson has endured long weeks at his son’s bedside at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia.

The Winlock resident has been there since his 36-year-old son, Trent, was admitted with a severe case of the flu.

“It is a nightmare you don’t ever want to happen to you,” Swanson said.

Trent Swanson became ill Jan. 20. A few days later, he was hospitalized after he started coughing up blood and struggled to breathe. After doctors prepared family and friends for the worst, Trent turned around. He is undergoing rehabil-itation, and is expected to recover.

“Thank God he is strong and he’s a fighter,” Bruce Swanson said. “It’s looking good now.”

Swanson said his son’s ordeal has reinforced the importance of getting the influenza vaccination during flu season, which typically ends in March or April.

“No matter how young and tough you think you are, this is something you don’t want to mess with,” he said. “We don’t want any family to have to go through this.”

Trent Swanson had a reaction to a flu shot several years ago, his father said, and stopped getting them after that. But the effects of the shot were nothing compared with what the flu has done to his son, he said.

“It’s a ride you don’t want to be on,” he said.

Tammy Fickle of Puyallup never thought her family needed to worry about influenza, until it nearly took the life of the Puyallup woman’s husband.

Trent Swanson’s loved ones reached out to Fickle after hearing about her husband, Daniel. His story was similar to Trent’s: He tried to eat right and exercise often, and his family didn’t think they were at risk.

“That’s the reason why we didn’t get flu shots,” Tammy Fickle said. “We did not know this could happen from having the flu. It has certainly opened our eyes.”

Daniel Fickle tested positive for influenza A about five weeks ago. Within days, his breath shortened and he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Puyallup’s Good Samaritan Hospital with double pneumonia.

The next day he was placed on a ventilator, and the prognosis didn’t look good.

“He was deteriorating quickly,” Tammy Fickle said. “The doctors prepared us for the worst. They didn’t think he was going to make it.”

That changed after doctors had a special RotoProne bed shipped from Portland to help treat Daniel. The bed circulates oxygen to the lungs, which it did for Daniel for eight days. Trent Swanson also used a RotoProne bed during treatment in Olympia.

After weeks of induced paralysis, dialysis treatments for failing kidneys, and eating and breathing through tubes, Daniel took another turn for the worst before starting steroid treatments that his wife said saved his life.

Moving forward, the Fickles will never skip on their flu shots and Tammy encouraged all families to avoid drastic health struggles by getting vaccinated.

Bruce Swanson echoed her remarks.

“We’ve learned a lot from the process,” he said. “It’s really an awakening when you see someone you love or a good friend laying in a bed like he is knowing what a strong person he was.”

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682 kari.plog@thenewstribune.com @KariPlog

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