Surviving the Swine Flu: One Man's Story

PHOTO Jim Shrode says he was perfectly healthy until he caught the swine flu and was hospitalized for seven weeks.Courtesy the Shrode Family
Jim Shrode says he was perfectly healthy until he caught the swine flu and was hospitalized for seven weeks.

Jim Shrode knows first-hand how dangerous the H1N1 flu virus can be. Shrode, who his wife described as "full of energy," nearly died from the swine flu even though his most recent physical had indicated he was in excellent health.

In May, the 53-year-old Michigan man said he suddenly started to feel feverish and tired.

"I thought I had a flu. Just the flu. I figured it would be over in a day or two," Shrode said.

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Shrode felt so ill he could not attend his daughter's graduation ceremony.

"I thought, 'Well, I'll stay home, even though it's an important event to go to,'" Shrode said.

But Shrode, who is self-employed as an inspector of buried piped and nuclear power plants, continued to feel worse, and a few days later was admitted to a Grand Rapids hospital with pneumonia.

"There was like five doctors in his room. He was on oxygen and they're moving him to ICU," his wife, Mary, said. "I was scared."

Despite the oxygen mask, the doctors could not get Shrode's oxygen level up.

"One of the last things I remember is the doctor said 'Do you want us to resuscitate you if we need to,'" Shrode said.

Doctors sedated Shrode so he was unconscious while on a ventilator and airlifted him to the University of Michigan Medical Center, in Ann Arbor, where they discovered he had contracted the H1N1 virus. The doctors put him on antiviral medication.

Shrode remained unconscious for two weeks until his body finally began to win its fight against the virus.

"We were going up the elevator from the parking garage, and his sister called me and told me that he was awake. And we were running. And it was a long run," Mary Shrode said.

When he woke up, Shrode said he was thrilled to see his family standing outside.

"I gave them a thumbs up, I'm here," Shrode said.

Man Survives Near-Death Experience From Swine Flu

Shrode spent seven weeks in the hospital, but his battle with the virus did not end there. With all the time in bed, Shrode lost 37 pounds, and had to go to a rehabilitation hospital to learn to walk again.

"I lost so much, the weight loss I had was all muscle loss. My arms, my legs, laying in bed for all that time, it's amazing how quick you lose that," Shrode said.

Shrode also said he had trouble with his short-term memory.

"I was calling [my wife], 15 minutes later I was calling her again, telling her the same thing, you know. She said, 'Well, you already called and told me that,'" Shrode said.

While Shrode's memory and strength has improved, his family said they wish they had known more about the H1N1 flu before he contracted it.

"It's going to affect everybody differently," Shrode said. "People need to know that the risks of the vaccine are minimal compared to the risks if you get ill with it."