San Diego

US Navy Veteran With Flu Fights For Life in San Diego ICU

Shawn Burrough's family says support from friends and social media is helping them cope

A United States Navy veteran who is also a husband and father of four is fighting for his life, critically ill with what his wife said are severe complications of the flu.

Shawn Burrough, 48, of El Cajon, got the flu just before Christmas as the flu epidemic began sweeping San Diego County.

His wife, Jennifer, said Burrough powered through the holiday, working and getting ready for Christmas celebrations.

But his illness – which his wife said was diagnosed as Influenza B, a less common form of the flu – took a terrible turn just before the New Year.

Shawn had trouble breathing and quickly found himself in the Intensive Care Unit at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa.

"He had a full-on episode,” Jennifer said. “He could not breathe at all. They rushed him into a room and rushed me out. They sedated and intubated him, so he could breathe. I never thought in a million years that a flu — something as very simple as a flu — would do this, would cause him to be so sick. And fast! Fast!"

San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) said Wednesday this year's worsening flu season has already led to the deaths of 45 people in San Diego County, including a 1-year-old baby.

Left: Reported Flu Activity for the Week of Dec. 31, 2016 (Week 52); Right: Reported Flu Activity for the Week of Dec. 30, 2017 (Week 52)
Data: CDC

The baby died on New Year’s Eve and is the youngest victim thus far. The 45 people who have died from the flu are between the ages of 1 to 100. Each person had underlying medical conditions, per health officials.

Jennifer said her husband was in good health, with no serious medical problems, before he got the flu.

Doctors told Jennifer that Shawn now has pneumonia, kidney failure, sepsis and possible liver damage. He is on a ventilator and multiple medications.

She said Shawn is holding on and fighting but doctor’s give her no guarantees about the outcome.

Meanwhile, Jennifer said emotional and financial support from local friends and others on social media are helping her and the couple’s four children – ages 14, 12, 4 and 18 months – stay strong and optimistic.

"There's not a word big enough to describe the community and the people who have reached out to help us,” Jennifer told NBC 7. “It's humbling. It's amazing."

Jennifer said she can only hope, wait and pray for the best outcome.

“He’s my everything,” she said of her husband. “We need him.”

She said no one in her family got the flu vaccine this season because they didn't think it would help much and they were prepared to put up with flu symptoms if they did get sick.

HHSA urges every San Diego County resident 6 months and older to get the flu shot. 

Those at the highest risk of developing complications from the flu include people age 65 and older, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease. For information on county public health centers offering the flu shot, click here or call 211.

Jennifer is not sure a flu shot would have helped Shawn, but she now urges everyone to get the vaccine, as soon as possible.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” she said. “Because just like that, everything could change. Everything.”

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