COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It is peak flu season and CDC is reporting high levels of infection in South Carolina. For those with severe complications, life hangs in the balance and Prisma Health Richland may be the only life raft.
At least 51 people have died from the flu this season in South Carolina, according to SCDHEC, which releases updated flu numbers every Thursday. We know one teenager died Friday after complications of the flu, which would bring that number to at least 52. SCDHEC tells WIS to expect new numbers this week.
For some – the complications from the virus can be severe. That’s what happened to Christina Nimmons.
“She had the flu and it was the Type A flu,” said Nancy Crawford, Christina’s grandmother. “It attacked her lungs.”
She barely survived it.
“She got the flu in Anderson because that’s where she lives and she went to Anderson hospital the 7th and they admitted her,” said Crawford. “I talked to her Wednesday and I talked to her and she seemed fine. Thursday they said they needed to put her on life support.”
Crawford said Christina was in a medically-induced coma for 3 ½ weeks and they thought Christina’s two kids, who are eleven and nine, we’re going to have to say goodbye.
“Seeing her like this… knowing one minute we were gonna have to prepare for a funeral, really,” said Crawford. “I just had to get people praying because I believe in prayer. God brought her around it wasn’t her time.”
According to critical care physician, Dr. William Owens, Prisma Health has an extra tool in the arsenal for battling severe flu-like Christina’s - an ECMO machine. It’s the only provider in the Midlands with that capability, which is why Nimmons had to be transported from Anderson.
“ECMO is a technology where we place a large catheter into the jugular vein and we take the blood and pump it out of the patient’s body through a machine that puts oxygen into the bloodstream and takes carbon dioxide out,” said Dr. Owens.
It’s less invasive than a ventilator, he said, which allows the lungs to rest and heal. Prisma Health is the only provider in the Midlands that offers this lung rescue service.
“I can say with near certainty that without ECMO she would’ve died,” said Crawford.
Christina spent time on a ventilator and other machines – which means her voice is still pretty weak and she couldn’t speak with us for this interview. But the emotions were written all over her face, and tears rolled down her cheeks as she listened to her grandmother thank faith for a miracle.
“Oh honey it means the world, it’s my first granddaughter,” Crawford said. “She’s the one who made me a great-grandma. It’s a prayer answered. It’s a prayer answered.”
Fifty-six patients other patients have survived thanks to the lung rescue service at Prisma Health.