Looking at Josh Jones today, it would not be easy to guess that he nearly died less than a year ago from a very severe case of H1N1 flu.
“There were days during his stay here at UAMS when we didn’t know if he would make it,” said Alisa Carlock, an intensive care unit nurse. “He should have died so many times.”
Jones did not take his flu shot last year. That was the last time he or anyone in his family will go without being vaccinated. The ordeal has made the Jones family committed to spreading awareness about the importance of flu vaccinations. The flu vaccine, which includes protection from H1N1, reduces the risk of seeing a doctor for flu-related illness by about 60 percent.
Typically the elderly, the very young and pregnant women are considered at high risk for developing flu-related complications. The Department of Health and Humans Services says younger people were hit particularly hard this flu past season. This year, nearly 60 percent of flu deaths occurred in those ages 25-64.
“Had he had his shot,” his sister, Jennifer Jones Davis, said, “It’s likely the symptoms would not have been this severe.”
Jones, 37, began feeling aches and pain along with a high fever and coughing on Christmas morning 2013. He went to a clinic in Pocahontas. Doctors gave him medication and tested him for influenza. The initial test came back negative.
Josh’s symptoms became worse. One week later, he was sent to a nearby emergency room. Within hours, Jones was in a helicopter on his way to Little Rock. He spent 60 days in ICU at the UAMS MedicalCenter.
Nikhil Meena, M.D., an interventional pulmonologist, was on call when Jones arrived to the hospital. “He was in bad shape,” Meena said. “It was tough being confident of a favorable outcome given how sick he was.”
Jones flu symptoms led to other complications including pneumonia and organ failure. He had emergency surgery for a collapsed lung. All his toes were amputated because they were not receiving adequate blood circulation.
“The next thing I know, I woke up – two and a half months later – at UAMS,” Jones said. His family was happy to fill Josh in on the things he had missed and how relieved they were he regained consciousness.
“He’s really come a long way,” Carlock said. “He’s a walking miracle.” Carlock remembers Jones’ very supportive family. She requested to take care of Jones whenever she was on duty during his stay.
Six months after his diagnosis, Jones has learned to walk again. Based on his recovery so far, his family is confident his kidney and lungs will heal as well. Doctors believe it will be several more months before he fully recovers.
“He’s never once complained,” Carol Jones said of her son. “He’s never felt sorry for himself. He’s a fighter.”
Jones says he will be adamant now in making sure he receives his annual flu vaccine as well as taking everyday precautions to protect himself and his family.