At the crack of the bat at Safeco Field on April 8, Daniel and Tammy Fickle know they will be among the thousands who will enjoy the Seattle Mariners’ home opener against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
But the annual pilgrimage that the South Hill couple has taken since 2007 was almost snuffed out when Daniel, 50, was given a 10 percent survival rate after he contracted influenza A in late January.
“I had no clue the flu could affect someone in this way,” Daniel said from his inpatient room at MultiCare Good Samaritan’s rehabilitation center.
Several weeks ago, Daniel was admitted to begin occupational and physical therapy after his body had been severely weakened by the flu. He had double pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Daniel said he came down with a bad cough on Jan. 8 and was sent home from work, where he was in his fifth week of training for a new restaurant manager job. Tammy also got the flu, but she got better within a few days.
Tammy took Daniel to the emergency room at Good Samaritan the following Monday morning.
Daniel was put on a ventilator. By Jan. 16, Tammy said doctors told her that her husband was deteriorating quickly. They advised her to prepare for the worst.
Tammy said doctors had a RotoProne bed shipped from Portland, and that allowed Daniel to lay in a prone position on his stomach. The bed allowed his lungs to fall forward and for oxygen to circulate.
“He was on the bed for eight days,” Tammy said.
Soon after that, Daniel’s kidneys failed, and he was put on dialysis for three days.
Doctors told Tammy they wanted to try a steroid treatment. Tammy said it worked wonders and got oxygen to flow more efficiently.
Finally, in late Februrary, Daniel opened his eyes. Much of his memory of the past several weeks was lost.
“It was a month of not knowing,” Tammy said.
Daniel missed the Super Bowl, so when Tammy told him the Seahawks had won, he thought she was kidding. Friends purchased Daniel a Super Bowl championship shirt.
“I thought it was some elaborate hoax,” Daniel said.
Last Wednesday, Daniel had a half-hour session with Andrew Min, a certified occupational therapy assistant. Daniel will complete inpatient therapy on April 4.
“Daniel had a hard time eating at first, getting dressed, tolerating sitting up,” Min said.
Min said Daniel has made a huge improvement.
“He’s easy to get along with and very motivated,” Min said. “He’s always willing to give it another shot. That’s what I enjoy about working with him.”
The Fickles said neither one of them got a flu shot this winter, nor have they had one in the past.
“I’ll be getting a flu shot from now on,” Daniel said.
Throughout the ordeal, Daniel said he’s realized the value of family and that working 12- to 14-hour days just doesn’t cut it. He and his wife have eight children.
“You realize how much more important family is,” Daniel said.
He doesn’t plan to return to his restaurant job.
The Fickles said they’ve been overwhelmed by others’ kindness since Daniel got sick.
“It’s amazing how much people care,” Daniel said. “People come from out of the woodwork. It gives you some hope that people aren’t as bad as we sometimes think.”
Following a report on KOMO 4 News, one man donated $10,000 to the Fickle family.
Daniel also said his wife of 15 years has been amazing.
“I’ve learned how much my wife loves me,” he said. “She does everything for me.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.