When Erik Schoen made it through 2013 without getting the flu, he thought he was in the clear. He had seen co-workers, several high school students he chaperoned on a trip and even his own stepdaughter become ill, but he hadn’t felt any symptoms,despite being exposed to the flu virus numerous times. So, when 2014 rolled around, he decided he would skip getting a flu shot. That decision would come back to haunt him a few months later.
“I thought I was a pretty healthy guy,” says Schoen, who is 45 years old. “When I was a kid, I would only be sick for three to five days and bounce right back. Knowing my wife and stepdaughter were already vaccinated and being around others who’d been ill gave me a false sense of confidence.”
In April 2014, Schoen was at work when he started to experience flu symptoms. The next few days for him were a blur. He battled a fever over 100 degrees and became delirious. Schoen relied heavily on his wife, Stephanie, to take care of him.
“I could hardly get up when I was on the couch,” Schoen says.“I felt like I was on the bottom of the ocean. That was when I started developing chest pain. It felt like someone had put a tourniquet around my chest and was slowly tightening it.”
His severe case of the flu landed him in the hospital. At the same time, his 27-year-old stepdaughter was also seriously ill from the flu. Chelise, who has a neurological condition called Rett syndrome, was especially vulnerable to secondary complications from the flu virus. Chelise’s oxygen levels were dangerously low, and she was admitted into an intensive care unit for 26 days while Schoen was being kept under observation for his chest pains.
“Stephanie was torn because she didn’t know where to go and was having to bounce back and forth between rooms,”
Schoen says. “She was thinking she was going to lose her husband and her only daughter.”
Chelise and her stepfather were eventually able to go home, although it took several months for Chelise to fully recover. Today, the family considers itself fortunate to have made it through the ordeal and encourages everyone to get a flu shot — even if you think you don’t need it.
“We don’t take it for granted anymore,” Schoen says. “Missing it is not an option.”
This article was written by Mike Blount of the News & Review.