Middle-aged man hospitalized with flu surprised over the severity this season

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Flu cases continue to rise in Washington and state health officials say we haven’t even hit the peak.

As of Friday, 132 people have died from lab-confirmed influenza.

You often hear about sick children and elderly people getting sick with the flu every year. That’s still true this year, but what doctors are also seeing at one local hospital is seemingly healthy middle-aged people getting hit hard, too.

That’s why the message is to take symptoms seriously, know your body and know when to seek medical attention.

On Friday, Q13 News got access inside PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center where Greg Gebhardt is recovering in a hospital bed.

“Sleeping, showering when I have the strength, eating complaining,” Gebhardt said.

Gebhardt has been hospitalized for eight days, not because of some surgery or a rare disease. It’s just the common flu.

“It’s still hanging in there and it’s been eight days,” Gebhardt said.

Typically, the vulnerable population is the elderly or the very young ,but Gebhardt is neither at 53 years old.

“I am in pretty good shape, you know? I do a lot of walking, I stay in shape,” Gebhardt said.

He’s surprised he’s hospitalized but Dr. Kevin Lee personally knows how deadly the flu can be.

“Probably a quarter of my patients have the flu,” Lee said.

The hospital has been inundated with influenza patients this season.

They’ve even had to stage extra beds in the hallways at its ER this season.

So far several people have died from complications of the flu at the hospital, including a 25-year-old patient.

“It’s concerning, that’s why the flu epidemic this season is a big deal for us,” Lee said.

“I never realized it was a 25-year-old here. I am twice the age. I guess I am glad I did go to the hospital,” Gebhardt said.

The flu hit Gebhardt’s lungs pretty hard and it’s painful to breathe for him.

With the help of an IV drip, antibiotics and 24 hour care, Gebhardt is slowly recovering.

Because of the medical scare, Gebhardt says he will never take the common flu for granted.

“Everybody is getting it the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Gebhardt said.

Doctors say it never hurts to go to a primary care physician if you are worried about flu symptoms.

But you need to seek emergency care if you feel dizzy, have trouble breathing and keeping fluids down.

If you feel worse after a couple of days, also go to the ER.

If you get better but then symptoms come back, again, that could be a bad sign.