Flu nearly kills 27-year-old personal trainer

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Jamie Ison, a 27-year-old personal trainer, never imagined the flu would leave him hospitalized for weeks and nearly kill him.

"It came on quick," Ison told 3TV from his hospital bed at Banner Good Samaritan. His case was so severe that doctors put him on a special life support known as ECMO, which stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.

ECMO, a fairly new technology, acts as an artificial lung and is used only after medicine and a breathing machine have failed.

"He almost died," Ison's wife Krissy said. "He was close to dying if it wasn't for the ECMO machine, which took over for his lungs."

Krissy Ison happens to be a nurse. She says her husband is normally the picture of health and has no past medical history. But what started as a cough earlier this January quickly escalated.

Doctors from Banner Health say an increasing numbers of patients with life-threatening flu are taxing the capacity of critical-care units across the state, including the state's ECMO providers, according to a spokeswoman.

This comes as Arizona's flu cases appear to be on the rise, despite a slow start to the season.

"As some states are already starting to see a decrease, we're still having increasing flu activity," said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief medical officer of Banner Health.

The predominant strain identified this year is H1N1, influenza A. Bessel says Ison’s case highlights the strengths and dangers of the virus.

"What’s interesting about this strain is that it appears to have a unique characteristic where it actually affects those under the age of 65 who are young and otherwise healthy," she explained.

Doctors urge anyone who hasn't been vaccinated to do so immediately, a message echoed by Ison who didn't get a flu shot this year.

"Get the flu shot!" said Ison, still struggling to talk. He has a long road to complete recovery.

"Each day (is) a little better," Ison said.

Ison and his wife are grateful for the care that saved him and are now speaking out to raise awareness.

"We both said we never want this to happen to any of our friends, anyone we love," Krissy said.

For more information on local flu activity, visit www.azdhs.gov/flu.