When Grim Reaper called influenza comes knocking, knock back

According to www.influenza.com, when influenza goes uncontrolled, risk of cardiac death may increase. Influenza infection may trigger cardiovascular events by causing an acute and severe inflammatory state.

About twice as many people die of cardiac causes as opposed to influenza-induced pneumonia during influenza epidemics.

The days following influenza infection can be dangerous. Research reveals that influenza can increase the chance for dire cardiovascular events; 10 times the risk of myocardial infarction in the first three days after influenza infection, eight times the risk of stroke in the first three days after influenza infection.

Love, attention and care

Within 30 days of infection, among U.S. veterans with laboratory-confirmed influenza, 50%  who were 65 to 84 years of age had evidence of acute cardiac injury.

Influenza.com shows that diabetes and influenza infection can: triple the risk of hospitalization, quadruple the risk of admission to the intensive care unit after hospitalization, double the risk of death.

Harry titled this column, shaking my head. I would have called it “In Sickness and In Health.’’ The Grim Reaper had little role in Big Harry’s illness. The Grim Reaper was thwarted by the love, attention and care heaped on Harry by me and our sons.

At the hospital

This was no small feat. Three times I found Harry unresponsive in our bed. Three times I called 911.

The first time he was admitted to the emergency department, we arrived with red and wet eyes to find that he had a tube placed down his throat to help him breath. This is also known as life support.

He was then moved to the intensive care unit. He was unable to speak but was able to respond to commands of “squeeze my hand, move your feet”, etc. He was diagnosed with flu and pneumonia.

After a week, the hospital released him with fluid still in his lungs.

Pneumonia again

Fast forward three days, Harry was talking but unable to breathe properly, the ambulance took him to ER. He bypassed the ICU and was taken to a regular room. He was diagnosed with pneumonia again.

During both hospital admissions his blood pressure was allowed to soar, and his sugar/glucose was high.

It is important and interesting to note that although Harry had had diabetes and heart trouble in the past; in the most recent years his heart was normal, and he had no evidence of diabetes. That’s evidence of the family care which I referred.

He was discharged once again, and I called 911 the next morning. He did not know who I was, he called me Julie. Um Julie. The emergency personnel administered oxygen and he was able to correctly identify me. All is forgiven.

At the hospital, Harry was admitted to ICU again. This third time proved to be too much for the hearts of our 35-year-old sons as they cried that they did not want their dad to die. I tried to help my family by being stoic.

Defeating Grim Reaper

Harry’s carbon dioxide level was high, and he now had acute respiratory failure and the doctors also determined that he had heart failure because his heart was no longer pumping strongly enough. In a healthy heart, each beat should pump out at least 50 percent of the blood in the left ventricle.

Therefore, your ejection fraction should be between 50  to 75 percent  to indicate the heart is pumping well and able to deliver an adequate supply of blood to the body and brain.

We came to the hospital with an ejection fraction of 50%, that’s healthy.

Lies and more lies

When the cardiologist spoke to Harry for the very first time he said: “So you are here because you do not take your meds on a regular basis.”

What? How racist and ageist. The resident spoke to us of the EMT injecting Harry with Narcan and Harry having taken a sleeping pill! Lies, lies and more lies.

In sickness and in health defeated the evil that surrounded Big Harry. Me and Little Thomas and Little Harry (neither is little, but nicknames have a way of sticking) created a 24-hour shield.

Our sons worked from the hospital by day on their laptops. I worked too to create a semblance of normal at our organization. At night Thomas and I alternated sleeping in the chair or on the bench.

Home again

Harry went home at night to care for his toddler and pregnant wife.

On all three hospital stays, Harry suffered severely from hospital delirium. He kept trying to escape. He thought he was being poisoned by the nebulizer. He wanted the police to rescue him. It was heart wrenching.

Big Harry is home again, and the hospital delirium is dissipating. We see his personal cardiologist in the morning. He has the best of care, the kind that can only be found in a commitment of in sickness and in health.

Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Kay DeBow is the co-founder, executive vice president of the chamber. Website: www.nationalbcc.org.

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