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Manitoba woman, 24, dead days after getting sick with the flu: husband
WINNIPEG -- A Morden, Man., man said his 24-year-old wife had no known health conditions when she fell sick with the flu on Jan. 1.
She was dead only five days later, he said, after the illness progressed and she ended up being airlifted to hospital in Winnipeg in septic shock.
Her death happened roughly a week before a Grade 12 student of Kelvin High School also died of reported complications from the flu, amid a flu season that has seen three different strains of the respiratory illness circulating and city hospital ERs left with standing room only.
Dustin Ens said his wife Joanne, who he had married only eight months earlier, was full of love.
“Joanne loved everything to the fullest,” he said. “If she loved something, you knew. And she loved people most of all, especially young people, children and youth.”
Dustin said they met each other two years ago while volunteering at a youth drop-in called The Bunker Youth Ministry in Winkler, Man., something they were both passionate about.
“She loved so well,” he said.
Joanne Ens (Source: Facebook)
A QUICK ILLNESS
Dustin said Joanne first showed signs of being sick on Jan. 1, a Wednesday. She went to a walk-in clinic on Friday, when he said she was given anti-viral medication for what was suspected to be the flu.
On Saturday, Dustin said Joanne seemed sicker. On Sunday she was weak and still had a fever.
“A lot of weakness, and very crackly breathing, and short of breath,” he remembers.
Dustin said they called Health Links for advice and after hearing her breathing, they were directed to go to the emergency room.
They arrived Sunday evening at ER at the Boundary Trails Health Centre.
“They took her immediately into trauma, in the back, and tried to treat her, but it became very obvious she was much sicker than we suspected, and they intubated her and called the ambulance.”
Dustin said soon after that, the STARS Air Ambulance was called in and they made arrangements to bring her to St. Boniface Hospital, as the Health Sciences Centre ICU was at capacity.
“There wasn’t any delay due to hospital capacity,” he said. “It was all in stabilizing her.”
Dustin said he drove to Winnipeg to meet his wife at that hospital, and says the helicopter arrived at 2 a.m.
“By 6 o’clock, she was gone,” he said.
"Her entire body shut down, because of the infection."
Dustin Ens is pictured at the Morden home he shared with his wife Joanne. (Michelle Gerwing/CTV News)
The Public Health Agency of Canada is reporting a spike in influenza cases and said that outbreaks have resulted in deaths across Canada.
SECONDARY INFECTION SUSPECTED
Dustin said his wife was “completely” healthy before the flu hit.
He said it’s believed another infection played a role in her death.
“It started as influenza B and they suspect a secondary bacterial infection, but don’t have the results back yet to confirm.”
He said Joanne suffered sepsis before dying, as a result of the secondary infection.
While he couldn’t speak to specific cases, on Tuesday Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer in Manitoba, told CTV News while some demographics of people are at higher risk for severe complications for the flu-like secondary infections or neurological conditions, it can happen to anyone.
“Unfortunately we do see healthy individuals suffer severe outcomes, and it’s tragic,” he said. “And our sympathies go out to friends and families of anyone who’s had a severe outcome.”
Roussin said those at the highest risk include children under age five, people over age 65, people with chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart disease, people with compromised immune systems, and people who are pregnant.
He said the number of deaths related to the flu fluctuates: last flu season saw 19 flu-related deaths reported in Manitoba, the year before saw 46.
He said so far this year there have been two deaths reported in the province, but noted there is around a two-week lag in the time it takes to lab-confirm a death as related to the flu and report it in their surveillance system. He said the next report would be out Friday.
Roussin also said while it’s ideal to get the flu shot in the fall, it can still be effective at preventing illness later in the season.
ENS' PLANS FOR FLU SHOT TOO LATE
Dustin said a big part of the reason he is sharing her story is so other people understand the importance of getting a flu shot.
“We had talked about doing it January,” he said. “And just hadn’t made the time to do it."
He believes the flu shot would have prevented her death, but is also accepting of her fate.
“She was ready to see Jesus, and God called her home. And it was her time,” he said, explaining Joanne’s faith was “on fire.”
“I’m grateful that she’s in the arms of Jesus and sorrowful that we’re left behind for a little longer,” he said.