Medford man in critical condition at Providence Portland after catching the flu

Now the man's family is warning other to get their flu shots — something that he didn't do before falling ill.

Posted: Jan 9, 2020 5:37 PM
Updated: Jan 9, 2020 5:52 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Medford man is fighting for his life at Providence Hospital in Portland after coming down with the flu over the Christmas holiday. Now his family members want to warn others that getting a flu shot could keep them from a similar fate.

32-year-old Eric Valencia was rushed to the Portland hospital from Medford after being first admitted on Christmas Day. While in the hospital, his condition continued to worsen. In addition to the virulent flu, Valencia came down with pneumonia.

Valencia has been surrounded by family members from the beginning, but they admit that it's been a scary two weeks. Now, Providence says, Valencia's lungs are only functioning with the help of technology known as an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine.

"I'm very thankful because, basically, when we came in here it was like life or death . . . and right now we have hope," said Valencia's mother.

The ECMO machine functions as a lung bypass, taking over breathing function while his lungs work to recover and regain strength, Providence said.

Valencia's family says that he did not get a flu shot this year. They hope that others will hear his story and take it as a warning.

"I see it on television, on the news, and it's like, 'these poor people' . . . but everybody needs to get a flu shot. I don't know how I could stress it more," said Ronnie Valencia, Eric's father.

Valencia remains in critical condition at Providence Portland. Even if all goes well, he is expected to remain in the hospital for the next several weeks.

Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls announced just today that it would add visitor restrictions on Friday in an effort to prevent the spread of the flu. Anyone who is ill or under the age of 18 will not be allowed to visit Emergency patients or those in the inpatient areas of the medical center.

“Our primary responsibilities are to care for acutely ill patients and to ensure the safety of the people who provide that care,” said Annette Cole, RN, chief nursing officer and vice president for Patient Care Services at Sky Lakes. “One of the best ways we can do both is to prevent the spread of germs, and we can help accomplish that by restricting visitors.”

There will be case-by-case exceptions to the restrictions, Cole said.

“The nurse in charge of the shift will be able to make those decisions when the questions arise. In those cases, visitors will be asked to take special precautions to minimize the risk to patients.”

KGW in Portland contributed to this report.

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