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Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Swine flu victim from Greater Manchester makes jab plea
Swine flu victim Phil Smith with children
Phil Smith spent 26 days in intensive care at Wythenshawe Hospital

A man from Greater Manchester who nearly died from swine flu is urging healthy people to get the jab.

Before contracting the illness, Phil Smith from Sale was a fit and active person but spent almost four weeks in intensive care over Christmas.

At one point, his partner Vicky Culshaw was told it was unlikely he would "make it through the night".

Phil believes that everyone should see their GP about getting vaccinated, whether they're at risk or not.

'Thumbs-up'

When Phil Smith, was sent to Wythenshawe Hospital for a chest X-ray in early December, he wasn't too worried.

SWINE FLU - WHO'S AT RISK?
H1N1 virus
The following groups are considered 'at risk' and should see their GP about anti-viral treatments:
People of any age with chronic heart, lung and other disorders
Pregnant women
People aged 65 or over
People in long stay residential accommodation

"I had a cough, nothing more," he said. "I didn't feel like I had anything seriously wrong."

A course of antibiotics had failed to make a difference, but the 49-year-old salesman - known to his friends as Smudger - didn't think he was at risk.

"I remember giving Vicky the thumbs-up as they wheeled me off to X-ray," he recalled. "I honestly thought I'd be out in about an hour."

What followed was a Christmas that Phil and his family will never forget.

Phil was immediately admitted with pneumonia. Then, when his condition started to deteriorate, he was sent to the intensive care unit.

A few days later, doctors revealed that he'd tested positive for the H1N1 swine flu virus.

'Horrrendous'

Vicky was shocked that her fiancé - a fit, active and relatively young individual - had been hit so hard by the disease.

"He wasn't at risk," she said.

"Smudge played rugby for years and he runs and cycles a lot. He had no underlying health problems.

Vicky Culshaw
The doctors told me they didn't think he'd make it through the night. It was horrendous.
Vicky Culshaw, Phil's fiancée

"What I know now is that you don't have to be in a risk group," said Vicky.

"This year's swine flu affects anybody."

As Vicky balanced her time at Phil's bedside with looking after her two young children, she was given the worst possible news.

It was touch and go at times," she said. "Then one night, the doctors told me they didn't think he'd make it through the night.

"It was absolutely horrendous."

Eventually, on the Thursday before Christmas, Phil started to show signs of improvement and was taken off oxygen.

In total, he was in hospital for 31 days, four days on a ward and 26 days in intensive care - three weeks of that on life support.

'Lucky'

Phil is making a slow recovery at home and he and Vicky are making plans for their wedding in July.

He was full of praise for the doctors and nurses at Wythenshawe who treated him.

"I'm a very, very lucky man," he added. "The intensive care team I had at Wythenshawe were amazing - they never gave up."

"If I could run the London marathon to raise money for the ICU, I would."

But he's also anxious that other people who have a chest infection should get themselves tested for swine flu.

"If anyone has had a cough and it's not shifting, then go and see your GP to get tested," he said.

"If you don't want this horrible disease, then pay the £10 or whatever it is to get the flu jab.

"For the cost of a night out, it's got to be worth it."

The number of deaths this winter from flu verified by the Health Protection Agency currently is 50, with 45 of these due to swine flu.

The majority were under 65: eight cases between 5-14, 33 cases aged between 15-64 and four cases aged 64 and above.




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