A little pain or a long life? You decide

Published 10:48 pm Saturday, March 12, 2011

When 40-something-year-old Jesse Roberts got out of bed on a cold Sunday in late January, he felt like he had come down with a bit of a cold.

On Tuesday the former Ironton City Councilman who moved to a Columbus suburb about five years ago was at an urgent care getting treated for the flu. By Thursday he was headed to a Columbus-area hospital, but was soon sent on his way.

The next day, Feb. 4, it was apparent that Jesse wasn’t well. Friends and family knew something wasn’t right.

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So his wife, Debbie, took him to the hospital again.

This time they admitted him and began treating him for the flu and dehydration. Of course some complications arose.

Roberts woke from a drug-induced coma 10 days later, not even cognizant of the fact that he had been in the fight of his life, in fact, a fight for his life.

His lungs stopped working, requiring a ventilator to breath for him for nearly a week. He gained 28 pounds because of fluid and had some complications with his eyes.

For Debbie, a nurse herself, it was a difficult time. All objectivity goes out the window when something like this hits so close to home.

“The first few days he was in the drug-induced coma state, I was afraid of what the outcome could be and my heart was aching,” Debbie said. “I sat by his bed and watched him and the monitors looking for any positive sign. After several days, I started seeing indications that he was able to at least hear me at times.

“I would touch his nose or feet, both of which he hates, and he would furrow his brow. I would tell him to wiggle his toes if he could hear me, and he would. I talked to him, read him e-mails, texts, cards and Facebook messages.”

Roberts ultimately spent 11 days in the ICU due to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and H1N1 complications.

He was taken off the ventilator on Valentine’s Day.

“When the doctor told me they were going to remove the tube, my first response was, ‘thank you, God.’ I was happy, thankful and excited to hear his voice again. He has never been quiet for so long!” Debbie said.

“I was also afraid that it was too early and that he would develop trouble with his breathing, but the doctor assured me that if they didn’t feel comfortable removing the tube, they wouldn’t do it. It was the best Valentine’s present I could ever have.”

On Feb. 17, thirteen days after he was admitted, Jesse Roberts went home.

Now, he is back on his feet, working full-time and looking at life a little differently. He had to relearn basic motor functions that you or I take for granted. It is still a work in progress.

“I want to be normal again and not be lost at work … able to do things and not tire so easily and, of course, to use the correct words,” he said. “I often know the word is incorrect but cannot get the right word out. That is way better than it was immediately following my hospital stay.”

For Roberts, the message is one of prevention and he hopes other people take advantage of it.

“Take the flu shot. Many people say, ‘It made me or makes me sick.’ I know that is what I said. But take a day or two as opposed to almost losing your life,” he said. “Life is too short and I am not yet 50 and have had a near death experience, because I did not take a flu shot. How naïve is that? How dumb is that? I will never miss the flu and five-year pneumonia shots again. The swine flu and all other strains can, and will, kill you if you don’t take precautions.”

“Just ask me, I am a walking, talking miracle that the doctors had little hope for. God does answer prayers.”


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.