Kevin's journey to walk again after flu-induced coma

A female physiotherapist stands beside a male patient
A/Senior Respiratory Physiotherapist, Tenae Cowie with patient Kevin Macnamara
May 18, 2021

Late in 2019, 27 year old fly-in-fly out worker, Kevin Macnamara, presented to hospital struggling to breathe.

Kevin had caught influenza A which developed into bilateral pneumonia. Being put on oxygen was the last thing he recalled before being intubated and sent to Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) where he spent three weeks in a coma on life support and dialysis. 

Over the weeks he spent in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at FSH, Kevin faced many complications including two deep vein thromboses, in addition to the shock he faced upon waking up in the following year!

Kevin had recently returned from a trip to visit family in Fiji and Sydney, where the illness started, and didn’t realise the seriousness of his condition until he woke up from the coma.

“It was a lot to wrap my head around, it’s like I went to bed one night, and then woke up the next morning – but it was the next year!” Kevin said. ”But the team of nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, dietitians, and specialists I was surrounded by when I woke up, were amazing.”

After leaving the ICU, Kevin was treated on the respiratory ward 5D where he spent a month recovering.

FSH A/Senior Respiratory Physiotherapist, Tenae Cowie, said Kevin’s muscles had wasted after his lengthy stay in the ICU, and he had to learn to walk again with the support of physiotherapists. He had a goal to walk before his birthday at the end of that January.

“Kevin had to learn to sit, stand and then step until he could eventually walk again, but he faced his recovery with courage, and walked the day before his birthday,” Tenae said.

Kevin attended the hospital for various follow-up appointments, and besides some residual nerve damage in his leg, Kevin is now fully recovered and back to his normal activities like cooking, cleaning and driving. He is soon to recommence his work in FIFO catering after over one year off.

“I couldn’t have gotten through the last year without all the care, treatment and support from the team at FSH, and I am forever indebted to them all for saving my life,” he said.

“I’ll be sure to get my flu shot now that I know it can impact young people like me.”

Hear Kevin talk about his experiences

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