Saturday, November 26, 2016
Ashley McCormick’s Flu Story
On December 27, 2013, I lost my only daughter, Ashley, to the flu.
She was only 23 years old.
A few days before Christmas 2013, Ashley came home from work not feeling well, she had a sore throat, a fever and just felt achy. She was taken to an urgent care, but her diagnosis of Type A flu came too late for antivirals to be given. When I heard, she was diagnosed with the Flu, I was relieved, I thought, everyone gets the flu, it’s no big deal, you feel horrible for a few days, you get over it, and that’s it.
Boy was I wrong.
I had never gotten a flu shot before, and neither had either of my kids. I wasn’t against it, I just thought it was for people who were sick, and for older people, but it wasn't. I had never heard of anyone dying or having any complication from the flu before.
Late Christmas Night, Ashley was taken to the Emergency Room, her fever was 103.8F and she was having trouble breathing. She was taken to the I.C.U., and hooked up to machines and a special breathing mask within minutes of walking into the triage unit. They said her pulse ox was 88, and she was hypoxic, I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but I knew it was something very serious.
I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen over the course of the next 24 hours, but throughout the next day, as test results started to come back, doctors began to give us a picture of what was going on, It was not a pretty picture, it was a nightmare. They said she had the H1N1 Flu, and it had attacked her lungs.
We started having Drs wanting to try different things, which we agreed to try anything. It came to a point where she had to be put on a respirator, but her lungs were so severely damaged they would not accept the air being given. Finally, all these ideas that the drs were having weren’t working. We were told her only option was to be put on an ECMO machine, a heart lung bypass machine, to give her lungs a chance to heal. They said she would be airlifted to a larger hospital about an hour away, the hospital she was in didn’t have a machine.
Finally, they found a machine for her, but Ashley was so much sicker now, so getting her to the hospital with the available machine, was an almost impossible task. We were told she had a 95% chance she wouldn’t make the trip. She did make it, she was taken directly into surgery, and we were met with a nurse to have us sign a bunch of papers, once again we said do anything, and signed all the paperwork. We were again given the odds, a 95% percent chance she would die being hooked up to the ECMO machine during surgery, and if she made it through that a 90% chance she would have a serious complication while being on the machine.
We didn’t care, a 5% chance is better than a 0% chance.
About an hour, after being given updates every 15 minutes or so, we were taken into a room, expecting to be told what the next step was.
But instead, the dr. came in and said, “I’m sorry, we did everything we could but she died.”
My husband fell to his knees and cried, my son, who was only 17 at the time looked at me like he didn’t understand what was happening, I will never forget the look on his face, it was like this isn’t real, this can’t be real. I honestly, don’t remember what I did. I know I just stood there in shock, I guess. I do remember thinking, she just had the flu, how could she die from just the flu? It just didn’t make sense.
There is nothing I can do to bring her back, but I can tell her story and raise awareness.
A few weeks after Ashley died, we were contacted by many reporters and had news crews showing up at our door wanting to do an interview. Ashley was the 3rd young 20 something-year-old who died from the flu in our county. I really wish the media would have done a story on number 1 or Number 2, I would have seen it, and knew flu shots were so important. I then started to think that if I didn’t know this could happen, I bet the majority of people didn’t know either.
So, on February 2nd, The Ashley McCormick Flu Foundation was born. We go all over to tell Ashley’s story, talk of the importance of getting a flu shot every year, and when we have funds or can get grants provide flu shots. I was right, the majority of people do not realize the flu and be deadly.
We work closely with the State and county health departments, and focus on the college age kids. They are the lowest demographic of people who get flu shots, over all.
The State has created a poster, with Ashley’s picture, and story and is posted in all health departments, colleges, some school districts, doctors’ offices, and just recently in Our County Walgreens stores.
The health dept. tells me that Ashley’s poster really is making a difference in rising the Flu shot rates in every age group.
It's flu season. Get your flu shot.
My name is Patti McCormick. I work full time as the director of The Ashley McCormick Flu Foundation. I devote my life to raising awareness about all vaccine preventable diseases, but especially the Flu. I also run another foundation that honors Ashley's kindness, and her passions, it is called Ashley's Bridge. For more information, please see: http://www.theashleymccormickflufoundation.com/