Atoka father fighting for life after flu diagnosis

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ATOKA, Okla. (KXII) -- An Atoka father who caught the flu is now fighting for his life in the hospital.

"There was just nothing we could do, he was just one of the unlucky people this season," Shuana Keeler said.

Michael Keeler's family said he was a perfectly healthy 48-year-old man. He and his daughters had the flu, but as the girls got better, he continued to get worse.

On Dec. 23, he was suddenly short of breath and went into the ER. Since that day he's been intubated in the ICU.

"There are so many things that Michael is, he's a friend, he's a father, he's a husband, he's pretty amazing," Shauna said.

For the past month and a half, Michael Keeler's wife Shauna and their 4 and 5 year old girls have spent their days by his hospital bed in Oklahoma City.

"It's a rapid progressiveness, it's something you just don't realize is occurring until it's there," Shauna said.

Shauna is a nurse. She said once Michael tested positive for the flu, they did everything by the book. He'd even had a flu shot.

"Lots of rest, fluids, chicken soup, that kind of thing," Shauna said.

But things quickly took a turn for the worst. Now his treatment is geared toward saving his life.

"Multiple means of life support, dialysis, the ECMO machine, ventilator, multiple sedatives," Shauna said.

An ECMO machine works like a heart-lung machine.

The flu weakened his body, he developed double pneumonia and is recovering from acute respiratory distress syndrome.

"You basically expect in flu season, for it to be the very young or the very old to be affected, not the middle-aged people who were seemingly healthy before," Shauna said.

But this flu season is not typical and Michael's story is not the only one.

In the age group 18-49, the Oklahoma State Department of Health said 15 people have died this season after testing positive for the flu. With three months left in the season, there's already been a total of 129 flu deaths. The state record is 130.

There have also been a record 3,000 flu hospitalizations in Oklahoma, 500 more than last year and 2,400 more than the year before.

The Keelers are preaching prevention more than anything.

"Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, don't go into public if you feel ill," Shauna said.

Michael is still in critical condition but they will not lose hope.

"As long as he's fighting, we're fighting," Shauna said.

Michael works with disabled adults in Atoka. The community has raised nearly $5,000 for medical expenses to help a man they said always helps them.

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