A woman has warned Australians of how dangerous the flu can be after her brother died from the flu just days after being rushed to hospital for treatment.
Joel Mcloughlin, 31, from Toowoomba, Queensland, was a fit and healthy young man and active dad to twin boys, then aged three, before being hit with a strain of influenza in 2016.
‘He was so sick at the time he needed to phone my mum to get her to help look after the kids. He said he felt like he was dying,’ his sister Kristy-Lee Mcloughlin told FEMAIL.
‘He was vomiting violently, his urine was dark, he couldn’t breathe and his whole body ached.’
Within 48 hours of his first hospital admission, it was revealed Joel suffered from pneumonia, heart and kidney failure and sepsis.
Joel Mcloughlin from Toowoomba, Queensland (pictured) was 31 when he contracted a particularly virulent strain of the flu
What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses.
Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.
In general, flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense. Colds are usually milder than flu.
People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.
The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness).
Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.
After Joel reached out to his family for help, he went to Toowoomba Base Hospital where he was immediately treated for dehydration.
Mrs Mcloughlin said although she thought her brother needed further testing, he was released the following day and sent home.
Because he still wasn’t well, Joel went to his father’s house to recover, however, days later his dad needed to call an ambulance as his condition had become much worse.
Kristy-Lee Mcloughlin (pictured centre with her brother’s twin boys Nayte and Jayke) has spoken about the heartbreak of losing her brother Joel to the flu
‘He was so worried about being labelled a sook because he had to go back (to the hospital) despite being in immense pain.’
Despite her brother’s fears his flu didn’t warrant a return to the hospital, it was clear to paramedics Joel’s health needed immediate attention.
Not only was he in agony, but after a white mask was fitted to his face to prevent the spread of germs it was quickly covered with specks of blood.
After Joel’s first hospital admission he went to stay with his father (Joel pictured right, his father is pictured left) to recover
What causes sepsis?
Sepsis can start with any bacterial infection. That infection can be in the bladder, or in the chest, or even on the skin.
But when you have sepsis, the infection worsens and spreads through the blood.
The body’s immune reaction can make things worse, not better, and it can cause a sudden, untreatable drop in blood pressure called septic shock.
Despite Joel’s emergency admission, within hours the family was being told there was a possibility ‘he might not make it’.
Test results showed he was suffering from influenza A (a more serious strain of the flu) and pneumonia.
Because his body was in such a weakened state, he was immediately connected to life support.
At this point, he stopped breathing, and it took doctors 10 minutes to revive him.
Further testing revealed Joel suffered from heart and kidney failure and his lungs had collapsed.
‘It just didn’t feel real,’ said Mrs Mcloughlin.
‘I had to ring Mum who was at work at the time, and I will never forget her screams.
‘Dad was so distraught and my brothers and sisters were struggling to get their heads around what was happening.’
Joel’s second admission to hospital came 48 hours after he had been discharged
Tragically, a day later it was revealed he had contracted sepsis, a life-threatening illness caused by the body’s response to an infection.
There weren’t many words spoken between, but we were all thinking the same thing… Joel wouldn’t want a life with massive brain injury
The reality of Joel’s situation meant doctors unsure if he would recover from the infection – and there was a possibility he had brain damage.
Mrs Mcloughlin revealed at this point a heartbreaking decision was made to turn off Joel’s life support.
‘Joel was so active and loved being outdoors. He loved to exercise and play outside with his boys,’ she said.
‘There weren’t many words spoken between, but we were all thinking the same thing… Joel wouldn’t want a life with massive brain injury.’
After Joel was admitted to hospital a second time, the family were confronted with the terrifying reality he may not survive his illness
It’s close to three years now since Joel died, an anniversary that’s difficult for the family to mark.
Her brother’s twin boys, Jakye and Nayte, now aged six, now live with Mrs Mcloughlin’s mother and not a day goes by they don’t ask about their dad.
Sharing Joel’s story is a way for the family to shed a light on how deadly the flu can be – and why people need to get vaccinated.
‘Costing between $10 and $20, it’s a small price to pay,’ Mrs Mcloughlin said.
Although it’s almost three years since Joel’s death, there’s not a day that goes by where his boys don’t talk about him
Mrs Mcloughlin is also on a mission to ensure people suffering from the flu, especially men, take the illness seriously.
‘I want the term “man flu” struck from our vocabulary. Joel was told by numerous doctors and nurses that he “just had the flu”, something I think stopped him from going back to the hospital after his initial admission.
‘I want men to know they aren’t sooks for seeking medical treatment when dealing with illnesses like the flu.’