NEOSHO, Mo. —
A group of friends have banded together to raise financial support for a Neosho man who is fighting the deadly H1N1 flu strain.
Jonathan Russell, 34, is currently recovering from the flu and subsequent complications at a St. Louis hospital. Russell, who works in sales for a construction company, was elected last year to the Neosho Board of Education and has been involved with Bright Futures Neosho.
Russell was diagnosed with the H1N1 strain of flu and was admitted in early December to a local hospital, where he was quickly transferred to the intensive care unit. He also developed acute respiratory distress syndrome, a potentially life-threatening illness that can occur in the lungs of individuals who are already battling a major disease.
He was eventually flown from Joplin to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, where he remains today, for more specialized care. His treatments there have included surgery and the use of a machine that supports his heart and lungs as well as a ventilator.
“It is really scary,” said Jake Heisten, a friend of Russell since they were students at Missouri Southern State University. “He got sick, thought he had a respiratory infection, and one thing led to another. The way it was told to me was his body just didn’t know how to fight the infection, and he’s just had a real rough time of it.”
Russell’s friends are spearheading efforts to raise $20,000 for his family through the online fundraising platform YouCaring. The fundraiser, which had drawn more than $8,900 in support as of Friday afternoon, was originally set to expire today but is expected to be extended for at least another week, organizers said.
Proceeds will help pay for Russell’s medical expenses, as well as travel and personal expenses that have resulted from his family’s frequent trips to St. Louis to visit him in the hospital, Heisten said.
“This is going to be, in my opinion, a long-term deal,” he said of Russell’s recovery. “He’s still making progress, but he has a long way to go.”
Russell’s mother, Shirley, took to her “Prayers for Jonathan” Facebook page on Friday to thank supporters and provide an update on her son’s condition. She wrote early Friday morning that he was responding to his doctors as best he could in his weak state, but by the afternoon, she said he was running a high fever and was be given a CT scan.
A majority of states are now reporting widespread levels of flu activity. Health officials told the Globe earlier this month that many of the illnesses could be traced to the H1N1 strain, sometimes called swine flu. That strain was responsible for a widespread outbreak in the United States in 2009-10.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the H1N1 strain has been the predominant strain of flu this season. Of the 3,745 influenza-associated hospitalizations reported across the country so far this season, 61 percent have been in people 18 to 64 years old — an uncommon pattern that was also seen during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, according to data from the CDC.
Sean Grove, another Russell friend from Missouri Southern, said friends and family were shocked that the flu has had such a strong, swift impact on Russell.
“Obviously, this year in particular has been very tough on otherwise healthy people when it comes to H1N1,” he said. “It’s been a little surreal, a little overwhelming, but he’s showing good signs of improvement, from what I can tell.”
To donate to the family of Jonathan Russell, who is recovering from complications related to the H1N1 flu, you may go to youcaring.com/teamjonathan.