A Port Hope man has a message for those who put off getting the flu vaccine – don’t.
Putting off getting the flu vaccine nearly cost Doug Blundell his life.
Fifty-year-old Blundell has had the flu before. So, not waiting in line to get his vaccine seemed like no big deal.
Blundell gives credit for being alive to his best friend Doug Chadwick along with the medical professionals in Cobourg and Ajax.
Blundell said he was supposed to get the flu shot on Thursday, November 17, 2022 at the Independent in Port Hope.
“But the line-up was long,” Blundell said recovering in his hospital bed at Lakeridge Health Centre in Ajax.
“There was a lot of people waiting. So I continued on with my regular job delivering prescriptions and my taxi job.”
“I put it off,” and said he planned on getting it this week.
Within 48-hours of having symptoms, Blundell went from a sore throat to barely being able to breathe.
Blundell was at The Beamish House with a friend on Sunday, November 20, 2022 watching the Grey Cup. During the half-time, Blundell went outside to smoke a cigar. He’s slowed down smoking stogies, but this was a special occasion – so he was enjoying it.
After the Argos beat the Blue Bombers, Blundell and his friend walked home and could feel a cough coming on. But he just blamed it on the cigar.
“By Monday morning I knew I was probably getting the flu. Turns out, I did.”
“It started off with cough and sneeze. Low fatigue. Not much. I just knew I wasn’t feeling right.”
But Blundell worked through it delivering prescriptions and operating his taxi business.
On Tuesday, it got worse – much worse.
Blundell is a tough cookie. But this flu bug was quickly taking its toll.
Blundell stayed in bed the entire day. Only getting up to go to work at 2 p.m.
Working his full day, he said usually he stops work at 10:30 p.m.
“I had one last call. They wanted me to go to Cobourg, but I just couldn’t do it.”
When he got home, as usual, Blundell took his dog for a walk.
“I walked the dog, now I’m at home, and I cannot breathe.”
Blundell said he was getting “bits of air, but there is no deep breathes.”
At that point, he still didn’t realize how critical things were getting and didn’t want to call an ambulance.
With Blundell being the only taxi in Port Hope, he knew if he went by ambulance, there were be no way of getting home after he was done at Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg.
“I just don’t want to be another patient.”
Blundell didn’t want to take the time at the hospital because that was for people who are really sick.
So he went upstairs in his home and called Tele-Health.
After using the app to confer with he thought was a nurse at a call centre, a screen comes up and says you have to pay $72.00 to speak to a doctor.
“I said to myself, I didn’t want to pay for an ambulance, I’m not going to pay $72.00.”
It was at that time, he tried to lay down just to catch his breath.
At that moment out of the blue, his best friend, Doug Chadwick texted him and asked, “how are you doing?”
“I was honest and said, “I really can’t breathe.”
Blundell said he needed to go to the hospital and Chadwick immediately replied that he would be over to take him.
It was at that time, that Blundell was nearly in his vehicle and was on his way.
He appreciated his friends help, but knew he had to get to hospital as soon as he could because of his breathing and didn’t want to burden his friend as it was getting late in the evening on Tuesday.
By the time Blundell was on Peter Street near Food Basics he realized how serious it was.
“I was starting to black out as I’m driving.”
“Things could have turned out really badly.”
Blundell managed to make it home and Chadwick picked him up and rushed him to Northumberland Hills Hospital.
As soon as he got to triage the nurse asked him what the problem was, Blundell could barely whisper that he couldn’t breathe.
“I think I have the flu but I can’t catch my breathe. I can’t get air.”
Realizing the seriousness of what was happening the nurse rushed Blundell back and immediately there were approximately seven medical professionals around him.
“A respirologist was right there. I have never, ever been taken care of so quickly in my life.”
“They knew it was an emergency situation from the beginning.”
He was then taken up to the operating room. It was there he phoned his mother, his friend Michelle and his best friend who brought him to the hospital to let them know what was going on.
“I was freaking out. I was honestly thinking today might be the day.”
“I was strapped down to the table and he had a tube inserted down his throat so he could breathe using a ventolator.
“I was actually prepped for a tracheotomy just in case they couldn’t get the tube down my throat.”
He was placed in a induced coma and early Wednesday morning, was airlifted by Ornge to Lakeridge Health in Ajax to the intensive care unit.
The next time he woke up, his mother and brother were by his beside. Blundell had been in a induced coma for a day testing positive for influenza A.
His fever was so high he was packed in ice to bring his core temperature down.
“It was extremely severe.”
“For what started off as the man cold it turned into life threatening within two hours – very quickly.”
Having had the flu before, he never in his wildest dreams ever thought it would have evolved into something that was life threatening.
Blundell said he has four shots of Moderna and has had nodules on his lungs for years.
“For the sake of a couple of days I would have had the flu shot – it turns out I probably should have got the flu shot.”
If Blundell had waited in-line for 15-minutes to get the flu-shot, maybe he wouldn’t be in the hospital.
“It’s real easy to put it off. It’s so simple to say, “I’m busy today. I’ll come back tomorrow.”
For Blundell it will be a slow road to recovery. He still is not using the bottom portion of his lungs.
He’s not expected to be out of Ajax hospital until Thursday or Friday.
Blundell explains there was an extreme amount of swelling in his neck caused by influenza.
“The actual virus attacked my throat. The by-product is it got in the lungs. So the machines have to breathe for you at that point.”
Blundell can’t express his gratitude for those who helped save his life including the doctors and nurses at both hospitals.
“The guys a life saver,” he says of Chadwick.
“That man saved my life. He went out of his way. He’s my best friend. I, in a heartbeat would do the same thing for him and I knew that he would be there for me.”
His friend Michele.
“That girl has exhausted herself in order to comfort me. I can’t thank her enough.”
Family is everything to Blundell. His mom Judy, her husband Andrew Laird and Blundell’s sister Stephanie Medeiros have stepped up to help with Ganaraska Taxi which the family owns.
Even resting in his hospital bed, looking out a second floor window at a parking lot, Blundell is grateful on his new lease on life.
“You think from something that is just the flu that people make fun of all the time. I got the gears on-line about having the “man-flu” and then for it to turn that quickly and turn that deadly is unbelievable.”