Georgia teen John Chelcy was in a coma for two days and was put on dialysis to repair his kidneys

By Julie Mazziotta
January 20, 2020 12:09 PM
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John Chelcy
Credit: GoFundMe

A Georgia teen went into kidney failure for the first time, and his mom is now urging people to get the flu shot.

Just before Christmas, 17-year-old John Chelcy started to complain of muscle aches and exhaustion. That worried his mom LaToya, 42, who said that her son is rarely sick.

“I couldn’t move by myself; I needed help,” John told Fox5 in Atlanta. “I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t put on my clothes.”

LaToya took him to an urgent care facility near their home in LaGrange where John’s condition worsened.

“As the doctor started to touch him to examine him, John started screaming that his body hurt and he couldn’t be touched,” LaToya told Today. “There was some real concern.”

The doctor quickly diagnosed John with the influenza B strain of the flu, which LaToya said was “surprising.”

“He never had any health problems. He never even had the flu,” she said. But, LaToya added, he’s also never had a flu shot.

“I never thought about it,” she said.

John went home after the trip to urgent care, but any time someone touched him, he would scream out in pain. LaToya decided to take him to the emergency room, where doctors realized that the flu had put him into kidney failure.

“They made him do a urine sample. His urine was a dark color, coffee,” LaToya said.

“That’s when they told us his kidneys shut down,” she added to Fox5.

Doctors put John into a medically-induced coma for two days and on dialysis to repair his kidneys. John also developed pneumonia in his right lung during his hospital stay.

RELATED VIDEO: Here’s What You Need to Know If You Get the Flu

After over three weeks in the hospital, John is expected to go home soon, and LaToya said she’ll make sure he gets a flu shot as soon as possible.

“When he leaves the hospital, we’re going to get a flu shot. If his body can take it,” she told Fox5. “If not, when it’s time to get flu shots again, he will be first in line to get a flu shot!”

And LaToya’s plan is right in line with what experts are saying. This flu season started “atypically” early with a strain of influenza B — the one John had — and while the flu vaccine for this season is “not ideally matched” to the strain, it’s still important to get the shot.

“There are four components in the vaccine, with two influenza A antigens and two influenza B antigens,” Richard J. Webby, Ph.D., a researcher with the Department of Infectious Disease at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, previously told PEOPLE. “We’re having an early flu B season, and last year we almost saw two different flu seasons with four different strains. So if that happens again it may well be with a virus that’s better matched with the vaccine.”

And though it’s “not common,” it is possible to get the flu a second time in one season.

Webby also said that it’s important to get the flu shot, even if it isn’t well-matched, because it will still lessen the symptoms.

“It does reduce your chances of catching it, and if you do get sick, of getting very severely affected by the virus,” he said. “When we get vaccinated we make a lot of antibodies that will fight against the virus.”

LaToya Chelcy said she she’s going to make sure all of her children get their flu shot from now on.

“Just to know that I could have lost my child, my firstborn, just because of the flu,” she told Fox5. “It’s scary. It is real scary.”

And John said he now has “a second chance at life.”

“It was that bad,” he said.