Tammy Fickle never thought her family needed to worry about the flu, until it nearly took her husband’s life.
Daniel Fickle, 50, always tried to eat right and exercise often, and his wife said the Puyallup family didn’t think they were at risk.
“That’s the reason why we didn’t get flu shots,” Tammy Fickle told The News Tribune on Thursday. “We did not know this could happen from having the flu. It has certainly opened our eyes.”
Daniel 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 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, and Daniel used it for eight days.
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 Tammy said saved his life.
“It’s a lot of rehab, but he has definitely turned a corner,” she said. “It’s been steady ever since.”
Still, that steady progress has been slow.
Daniel was downgraded this week from intensive care to progressive care, which is still critical. He is undergoing speech, occupational and physical therapy and is preparing to move to a rehabilitation facility in Burien.
“He’s needs some rehab to get to rehab, if that makes sense,” Tammy said of her husband, who will return to Good Samaritan’s inpatient rehab center once he’s physically able.
Tammy said the end of the road remains uncertain, but the support of friends and family are carrying them through.
“My faith is very strong,” she said. “With his progress over this past week, they are very hopeful that he will regain everything.”
Beyond Daniel’s struggle to survive, his family has faced other challenges.
Tammy said it is hard to talk to her husband because of his breathing tube, so pinpointing his needs has been difficult.
“We haven’t been able to communicate with him a lot,” she said. “We aren’t very good lip readers.”
With the unpredictable prognosis, Tammy and her mother-in-law took shifts staying at the hospital with Daniel.
“It was moment to moment,” Tammy said. “We wanted a family member here in case … something happened.”
Life back home hasn’t stopped, so the couple’s grown children from Montana and Oregon are helping with the three kids still living at home.
And Tammy said she just now started thinking about medical expenses, something the stay-at-home mother said she was unable to worry about in the beginning. Daniel is the sole provider for his family, and fell sick right after starting a manager job at a restaurant in Tukwila.
“It was a month of not knowing if my husband was going to survive,” his wife said. “The financial thing didn’t matter to me.”
Choking back tears, Tammy said the Good Samaritan staff is a blessing. They have become family and have provided a good experience, she said, “if you can have a good experience going through that.”
The Fickles will never skip on their flu shots and Tammy encourages all families to avoid such a drastic health struggle by getting vaccinated.
“If there are people out there thinking like I did … it’s really scary,” she said.
An event to support Daniel Fickle and his family will be from 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday at R-Jay’s Scoreboard, 1200 S. 324th St. in Federal Way. There will be food, drinks, music, prizes and raffle drawings. Children are welcome, with some restrictions. For more information, contact R-Jay’s or like the “Prayers for Daniel” Facebook page.Kari Plog: 253-597-8682 firstname.lastname@example.org @KariPlog