Flu nearly killed Fort Wayne woman

Lisa Bockelman nearly died from the H1N1 flu earlier this year.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Lisa Bockelman, 45, was a healthy woman. She exercised and ate right. She never thought she’d get the flu, let alone it nearly kill her. That’s why last year she didn’t get a flu shot.

“I just never thought I needed it. I was healthy and exercised. I’m in my mid-40s and flu happens to the young and the old, not the middle-aged. That’s who it hit last year, so it can happen to any aged person, healthy or not healthy,” Bockelman said. “I will never go without a flu shot again and I encourage anyone who doesn’t think they need one to please get one.”

Last December, Bockelman’s daughter got sick and she stayed home to take care of her. Her daughter did have a flu shot and was diagnosed with bronchitis.

“Then I started feeling not quite right,” Bockelman said. “Friday came and I wasn’t any better and Saturday came and I was worse.”

She could barely stand up on her own when she went to RediMed on Sunday. Doctors there had an ambulance take her to the emergency room and she was admitted to the hospital shortly after.

After a few days at Parkview Regional Medical Center, Bockelman was flown to the University of Michigan hospital to be put on a heart-lung bypass, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), machine to get enough oxygen in her blood to keep her alive. The focus was on her core to keep her organs and brain functioning. As a result, her arms and legs were becoming necrotic. Bockelman’s brother had to make the difficult decision to have her right leg amputated to save her life.

“At this point, I’m still unconscious. I know nothing,” Bockelman said. “My oxygen was so low for so long they were worried about my cognitive function when I came out.”

All of this was from the flu. Bockelman was diagnosed with H1N1.

“We had some really sick people last year with influenza,” Dr. Deborah McMahan, the Allen County Health Commissioner, said. “Four people died from influenza in Allen County.”

Health officials say it seems like more people had more adverse outcomes from the H1N1 flu strain last year. Bockelman’s nurses at the U of M hospital said they had eleven cases of H1N1 on their hospital floor alone and four of those cases turned fatal.

“It’s not a cold. It’s influenza, a systemic illness that can cause a lot of complications,” McMahan said.

The same strains of flu are expected to be circulating again this year, which is why health officials and Bockelman hope everyone who is eligible will get a flu shot.

“You’re playing the odds that you’re going to be the lucky one who doesn’t have a bad outcome and just a bad couple of weeks or months. Just get the shot,” Dr. McMahan said. “Just because you didn’t have the flu last year doesn’t mean you won’t have it this year.”

Through everything, Bockelman has an amazingly positive outlook.

“I don’t know how people can be negative. You’re still alive. I’ve never believed in the power of prayer and God more in my life,” she said. “I’ve never been angry that I lost my leg. I call it my new normal around the house. Right now I feel like I’m back to my life. If I can just get rid of the walker, that’s my last hurdle to get back to where I was.”

Bockelman’s optimistic she’ll reach that goal soon and then she has her sights on getting back to Zumba classes.


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