Man with flu-like symptoms had life-threatening disease

CHICAGO (WLS) -- If you're feeling flu symptoms, pay closer attention to them because they could be something more serious. Sepsis is a life-threatening infection that could be deadly.

One doctor describes sepsis as an avalanche of infection. Sepsis is body's overwhelming response to infection which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. There are approximately 8,000 deaths each year in Illinois from sepsis. The difficulty is often diagnosis early.

It was a close call for one Chicago-area couple.

Jose Luis Garrafa was a healthy construction worker who got very sick last month. He lost 16 pounds and many days of work when he started to get sick.

"Coming out from work, I felt tired, I felt so cold and my body felt so weak," Garrafa said.

"The following day, he was getting worse. He came with his book bag on the floor like a little kid, he was dragging it. And I said, 'You are getting sick,'" Altagracia Martinez, Garrafa's fiancee said.

His fiancee said two clinics prescribed meds for cold symptoms but he got worse.

Within days he was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital diagnosed with sepsis pneumonia.

"It was a very touch and go situation for those first couple of days," Kevin Robbins, RN, said.

Sepsis can be fatal and often presents like other conditions with symptoms such as sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and chills, extreme pain, confusion or disorientation, shortness of breath and high heart rate.

Garrafa was in the hospital for 17 days, most of the time in ICU, at times unable to breath. Slowly with specific treatment and medications, he stabilized.

His doctor urges quick attention from a physician if you are concerned about a loved one's illness.

"Time is life. Do not wait. Seek help. Everything that is out of ordinary, seek help. Because we never know, better to diagnose early and treat early," Dr. Mira Illiescu-Levine, said.

"My God is with him and he's never going to go," Martinez said.

Garrafa has not been able to work, and will likely not be able to work for months and his fiancee stopped working to care for him. This holiday, family and friends have helped them financially.

"I'm happy because I'm here. I'm so happy that God gave me another chance," Garrafa said.

Garrafa is most concerned about his mother in Mexico who he has been unable to assist during his illness.

The health care team at Mount Sinai has seen other cases like Garrafa's that did not have good outcomes. They are grateful he responded to treatment.

The couple plans to get married this summer.
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