January 30th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 4
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
James Wagner’s Christmas Miracle
Looking Back
courtesy of Allison Wagner
James Wagner in emergency in Blairmore
So last week I took you back to November 1918, a time when a H1N1 flu virus tore through the Pass and in a matter of weeks claimed many lives, young and old and in between. Back then the resources available were very limited and there was not much to be done except hope that the victim’s body could overcome the pneumonia that had overwhelmed their defenses.

Just before Christmas this year a H1N1 flu variant managed to reach into the Wagner family in Coleman and seize their eight year old son James. It moved so swiftly on this otherwise healthy young boy that it took a herculean effort by Alberta Health Services here in the Pass, Lethbridge and Calgary to pull James back from the edge. James’ mother Allison agreed to share the details of their encounter with me and with it a message to all about the validity of vaccination. That urgent message came out loud and clear in a desperate mother’s media posts throughout their ordeal.

December 17th –The Demon Surfaces

On Monday morning James Michael Roy Wagner was not well and kept home from school with what seemed to be a bad cold. By early afternoon this eight year old told his mother: “I really don’t feel good, can we see a doctor.” Allison agreed and around 2 pm they headed out and as they approached Blairmore Allison asked him whether he thought he should go to the clinic or the hospital? Perhaps it was to probe just how bad he felt. James replied:”The hospital, its closer! This was, as it turns out, an important decision.
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James was seen by the attending physician in emergency who decided his labored breathing was disturbing and ordered an x-ray. James’ left lung looked bad. While there his oxygen stats dropped from 97% to 70 % in an hour and kept dropping so it was decided to rush him to Lethbridge. Ambulances were all tied at the time up so one was brought in from Ft. Macleod to move him. James was really struggling to breathe. It must have been terrifying.

By the time they arrived in Lethbridge the gravity of James’s condition was assessed and the Lethbridge Regional kicked into overdrive. His breathing was so rapid and labored that it was decided he needed to be on a ventilator. His left lung was starting to collapse. Doctors could hear nothing from it.

There was concern his heart would fail as it was working so hard. Intubation is a very tricky process and in James’ case they used paralytic and sedating drugs for the procedure. There was an extra registered nurse working that night at the regional hospital which was apparently a fluke and a good thing for James.

It was decided he needed to be in Calgary’s Children’s Hospital but he could not be air transported that night due to the high winds that had plagued Southern Alberta since the 13th. Because he was on a ventilator it also meant that a team would have to come from Calgary for his transport.

December 18th – On to Calgary

At 9 am an air ambulance plane arrived in Lethbridge and Allison, who had been joined by her husband Shaun the night before, was told there was no room for them on the plane so they drove to Calgary. It was to say the least a heart wrenching drive. Not knowing. They actually arrived just before James as there was considerable work that had to be done stabilizing him in Lethbridge before transport. Allison’s mother drove down from Red Deer to meet them and after seeing James drove immediately to the Pass to pick up James’s siblings Thomas who is four and Emily who is eleven.
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Allison described their hospital arrival thusly: “The hospital set us up with a room just up stairs from James. But we didn't actually use it much and only slept a couple hours. We had been up for so long but we were so worried we had to go check on him. We slept mostly in chairs off and on watching the staff change intravenous over and over again. His heart was beating so fast being on 100% oxygen and him only saturating 55% and a fever of 105 that wouldn't let off. No way we could sleep. It was scary.”

Dec 19th- 22nd- – Allison’s Media Posts

Dec. 19th - “A small update from Calgary. James right now is stable. Nothing really has changed with his lung collapsed so they are doing all they can. A virus mixed with a bacteria can hit a child in moments. At least that’s what doctors think right now. He is being treated for everything. Machines are keeping him breathing. And all we can do is pray all the meds going in to him start to clear something up. And not take another turn for the worse. All we can do is wait. It can take days or it can take weeks we just don't have a clue.”

Allison told me that James’ left lung x-ray showed it went completely white which indicated in his case collapse from acute pneumonia.

Dec. 20th – 4:36 am – “Thank you everyone for your prayers. He is still hooked up to a ventilator for breathing. But his lungs are healing. We are so thankful. We came in here not knowing if our son was going to even make it the night. People please get your Flu shots. Results did finally come in. James ended up with a bacterial infection Pneumonia and it was topped with H1N1 influenza A. Deadly combination. We hadn't gotten our flu shots yet as we have been so busy. It’s not something we just stopped for I guess. But now I don't think I’ll ever push it off. GET YOUR FLU SHOT IT’S WORTH IT!
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Dec. 20th – 6:27 pm – “James has made an amazing turn around. Even a doctor from infectious diseases is studying our James. How fast he went down, collapsed lung and fighting for his life when we arrived in Calgary to coming off the ventilator today and him breathing on his own. I keep getting told by doctors for a kid as sick as he was he should have needed the ventilator for at least 10 days. He is such a strong boy and all the prayers coming in. Someone sure has been listening and we are so grateful. If you haven't gotten your flu shot DONT WAIT, GO GET IT NOW. IT CAN MEAN LIFE AND DEATH.

Dec. 22nd –9:36 am - “James went a bit backwards overnight. More blood tests, more oxygen, more x-rays.”

Dec. 24th – 11:50 am – “So today we are being moved from the ICU up stairs. With hopes of a discharge tomorrow if he is doing as well as he is today. We are very excited we may get to go home on Christmas. That would be the best Christmas present EVER”

Dec. 25th – 1:43 pm – “Got the best Christmas present. We get to go home. We have to keep a close eye on things. But we get to go home.”
Allison said that Shaun had come home a couple days earlier after James had been stabilized to take care of the animals and put the presents under the tree even though they were not sure when they would be home. Her comments on this were:” When we got home James, who was still not really walking all that well, walked up to the tree and said " It’s a Christmas miracle, Santa did come" I never cried so much in my life just hearing him say that. We were able to bring our son home. Our family was together. We are so grateful for every doctor and nurse we encountered. We may not have had our son today if it wasn't for every single one of them.
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Dec 26th –9:26 am - Allison’s Last Post

This is H1N1. It is scary as all hell. It is deadly. If you don't think it is not worth getting your flu shot, think of your kids, think of your parents and think of the kid next door. We almost lost our son and so close to Christmas because of a flu bug. You don't think it is a big deal to get a flu shot? It 100% is. Don't wait. You could be saving a life, if not your own your children's life.

Author’s Note. This Sunday the governor for the state of Washington declared a state of emergency there because of a measles outbreak. A person infected with measles attended a Portland Trail Blazers home game in Oregon. Infected people also went to the Portland airport, hospitals, schools, stores, churches and restaurants in Clark County, Washington. It seems we are going backwards.
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January 30th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 4
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