Patient wins battle with H1N1

Dallas Carothers’ left foot awkwardly slapped the floor Tuesday as he made his way across the Artistic Iron Works showroom. He clumsily gripped a pen in an almost-closed right fist.

A reddish, circular scar covered part of his neck.

And a huge grin spread across his face.

“I won the war,” the salesman said as he stood in the store near downtown, nearly dropping his pen as he removed it from his right hand with his left so he could engage in a not-so-firm handshake.

For three months, beginning last November, the 38-year-old Carothers and an around-the-clock medical team did battle with the H1N1 flu virus that kept attacking his vital organs as he lay in a coma at University Medical Center.

A tracheostomy allowed a ventilator to drive air through a tube into his windpipe, delivering oxygen directly into lungs that bacteria had begun to rot.

He had to be chemically paralyzed because the pain from the therapies was so excruciating that there was a chance his self-protective thrashing could undo the treatment saving his life.

Nourishment was provided through a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen.

That Carothers won the war with the virus — the medical bill for his treatment was $1.6 million — even surprised his two principal physicians, Dr. R.D. Prabhu and Dr. Michael Casey, who told his wife, Sharri, more than once to prepare for her husband’s death.

Today, Carothers is basically good to go, despite nerve and muscle damage from being bedridden for a long period of time. That has caused drop foot syndrome and weakness in the fingers of his right hand.

Now, though, he is trying to sell more than the wrought iron security gates, doors, fencing, patio furniture and railings that have made his employer a fixture in Las Vegas for 30 years.

“I want people to get vaccinated for H1N1,” he said. “I’d hate to see anyone go through what I’ve been through.”

Carothers, who was a muscular and energetic 205 pounds when he entered the hospital and a frail and limping 145 when he left, said his response to last year’s government warnings about a frightening new flu strain that threatened to be a deadly global pandemic “was pretty much like that of most younger people.”

“I didn’t think it could affect me, because I was as healthy as a horse,” he said. “Most people who really got hurt in the past by the flu were older. It was really a surprise when I got out of my coma and found out what got me.”

Surprise. If there’s one word that sums up both the entrance of the 2009 H1N1 virus onto the world scene as well as the effects of its transmission through populations, “surprise” probably qualifies better than most.

It was a distressing surprise last year when the novel strain of the H1N1 virus was detected in Mexico. It had genetic components of an H1N1 virus that killed up to 100 million people worldwide in 1918. And it was far more than a pleasant surprise when it turned out not to be anywhere near as virulent as scientists initially feared.

In fact, the CDC estimates the H1N1 virus, which basically elbowed seasonal flu viruses out of the way in the last year, was responsible for around 13,000 deaths in the United States, far below the usual estimated 35,000 deaths a year from the seasonal flu.

“We didn’t know what it would do,” said Jeffrey Dimond, a spokesman with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We planned for the worst and hoped for the best. We dodged a bullet.”

In Las Vegas, H1N1 claimed the lives of 40 people from April 2009 until April 2010, compared to what Dr. John Middaugh of the Southern Nevada Health District said is “the usual 80 to 100 a year from the seasonal flu.”

Also surprising, as Carothers found out, was who suffered the most from this flu strain: often the middle aged and young.

Around 9,500 people between the ages of 18 and 64 lost their lives to the virus nationwide, Dimond said, along with fewer than 1,500 children. Less than 2,000 were 65 and older.

“It hit populations that aren’t used to having many fatalities from the flu,” Dimond said. “With the seasonal flu, most people who die or get really sick are over 65.”

Of the 40 people who died in Las Vegas from the H1N1 virus, only four were 64 years of age or older.

Only 66 of the nearly 3,800 H1N1 cases in Clark County involved people over 65.

Statewide only 1.7 percent of the 8,101 lab-confirmed cases involved the elderly. Incomplete state records show four deaths from the virus.

There were 400 hospitalizations in Southern Nevada, 458 statewide, and less than 10 percent involved seniors.

Why such a dramatic change?

“The working hypothesis is that people got exposed 30 or 40 years ago to a circulating virus that was similar and they received immunity from past exposure,” Middaugh said. “People less than 60 had no pre-existing immunity.”

As many as 80 million Americans got protection from the virus with a vaccine that the CDC hurried into production, but millions of people were still exposed to the virus.

“We know that it spread widely,” Middaugh said. “And there’s no question that millions became infected with the virus. But no one knows why it affected people minimally or that people had no symptoms. We have to be grateful that so many people were so lucky.”

Carothers is just lucky to be alive.

About a week before he showed up in UMC’s emergency room barely able to breathe, he thought he simply had a cold.

But his condition worsened enough to where he stayed home from work for a couple days and he went to a Quick Care. A doctor there thought he had a mild virus.

Prabhu, a pulmonologist, said X-rays would show Carothers already had pneumonia in one lung by the time he came to the emergency room. It wasn’t until weeks into his treatment that tests confirmed he had H1N1.

“Here was a guy who was generally very healthy who never got sick, and three to six hours after he got to the hospital the pneumonia spread and involved both lungs,” Prabhu said. “His lungs were all filled with water. He rapidly deteriorated in front of our eyes. He had complication after complication.”

Anti-viral medications and antibiotics didn’t appear to be slowing down the damage wrought by the virus. He was placed in an induced coma so he wouldn’t need as much oxygen to survive.

Still, Carothers’ lungs collapsed.

Trauma surgeon Casey, reacting to a call for help, surgically inserted two tubes into Carothers’ chest to capture the air escaping from his lungs so they could be reinflated.

Melody Carothers wrote about that frantic emergency surgery in a journal she kept about her son’s experience:

“Dr. Casey’s team went throwing instructions in four directions at once literally! Poke two holes in his chest! Add this medicine here! Up the oxygen to this! PRAY! Yes, they even include that. It is pretty amazing to watch what doctors can do.”

Casey recalled that it wasn’t long before there was another serious complication.

“He also threw a blood clot in the lung,” the doctor said. “He wasn’t expected to survive that.”

Carothers was placed on blood thinner for the clot, and soon his blood pressure dropped dangerously low.

His kidneys failed and he had to be placed on dialysis.

“I was working on four H1N1 cases then, and two of the people died,” Casey said. “One of the reasons Mr. Carothers made it was that Dr. Prabhu realized the severity of this case so quickly.”

It wasn’t until two weeks before her husband was released from the hospital in February that Sharri Carothers knew he was going to live.

“So many times they said he probably wasn’t going to make it,” she said. “But then he got stronger and they brought him out of the coma and paralysis and he had to learn to talk and move and walk again. Physical therapy really helped him.”

As he sat on patio furniture inside the Artistic Iron Works showroom, Carothers recalled that doctors said the fact that he was in excellent physical shape before his bout with H1N1 had much to do with his pulling through.

“It would have been a lot easier, though, to get the shot,” he said.

According to the health district’s Middaugh, only about 18 percent of those who could get vaccinated for the virus in Nevada did so. In some states, almost 40 percent of those eligible for the vaccine received it.

“In a way, it’s a little like playing Russian Roulette with your life,” Middaugh said.

The health district will continue to give free H1N1 vaccinations until the end of this month. Then next fall, the H1N1 vaccination will be included in a seasonal flu shot that affords protection against three strains of flu.

The physical toll that a flu virus places on people isn’t the only concern that a vaccination can take care of, said Danita Cohen, a spokeswoman for UMC.

“It’s a lot cheaper to get a shot,” she said.

Even as her son lay in a hospital bed, Melody Carothers worried about the cost of his care. In her journal, she wrote:

“Is anyone curious about what this is costing? … The doctors have been so busy saving his life they haven’t had time to talk about the money! Yesterday I spoke with the UMC finance department — they were very sweet — and was told that hospital to date is now $790,000,000! …. Nope there is no insurance. The small business he (Dallas) works for dropped the policy September 1st trying to save jobs. We’re gonna send the bills to the White House and see if we qualify for a bailout!”

Cohen said the Carothers family has been able to make some small payments on the bill, and hospital officials continue to see if his care can be covered by government Medicaid or disability programs.

Whatever can’t be covered will be passed on to county taxpayers.

“A simple shot can protect you from a lot of problems,” Dallas Carothers said.

Contact reporter Paul Harasim at
pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.

News
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @btesfaye
First former felon to work for Nevada Department of Corrections
After his father died, Michael Russell struggled for years with drug addiction. When he finally decided to change for good, he got sober and worked for years to help others. Now he is the first former felon to be hired by the Nevada Department of Corrections. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Life
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing