3 days after flu diagnosis, 39-year-old Gatineau woman dies

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3 days after flu diagnosis, 39-year-old Gatineau woman dies

A Gatineau, Que., man is looking for answers from hospital officials after his 39-year-old wife visited four hospitals in three days before dying following an initial diagnosis of the flu. 

Donald Marengère took Cynthia Thibaudeau to the Montfort Hospital in Ottawa on Feb. 9.

After a number of X-rays and mucous tests, doctors determined she had the flu and should go home to rest, Marengère said.

Marengère said she spent the weekend resting, but then began coughing what looked like thick chunks of blood.

3 days, 4 hospitals

An ambulance took her to the Gatineau Hospital on the following Monday. Doctors tried to stop the hemorrhaging in her lungs, Marengère said, but he was told they did not have the necessary equipment.

Thibaudeau was then transferred to the Hull hospital, where doctors were able to stop the bleeding.

He said that's when he was told her heart was beating too quickly, and the Hull hospital did not have the necessary equipment or expertise to stabilize her.

His wife was then transferred to the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital, where her heart eventually stopped, Marengère said.

Victim healthy, had flu vaccine

Thibaudeau's death came as a shock to her husband, because he says she had received her flu vaccine, had no major health conditions and no history of heart problems.

Marengère wants to know why she was initially sent home to rest.

A spokesperson for the Montfort Hospital declined an interview with CBC, but said in a statement that the hospital would be willing to discuss the case directly with the family.

"A quality review of this case is currently underway," Gabrièle Caza-Levert, a spokesperson for the Montfort Hospital, said in an emailed statement. "For confidentiality reasons, we cannot discuss a specific case. If the family wishes, we welcome the opportunity to meet with them to further discuss this case."

Marengère is also wondering whether his wife would have survived if she hadn't been moved around to so many hospitals in search of proper treatment.

"I don't know if she had the immediate care to her heart, to her organs, right away in the same hospital would have made a difference. I'm not sure. I'll never know … the facilities just weren't there for her."

Complications can include bacterial pneumonia

Geneviève Cadieux, associate medical officer of health with Ottawa Public Health, wouldn't comment specifically about Thibaudeau's death, which falls under the jurisdiction of the province of Quebec.

But she said the most common complication from the flu is bacterial pneumonia, a secondary infection of the lungs due to bacteria.

Johns Hopkins University says bacterial pneumonia symptoms include coughing thick or blood-tinged mucus, a painful cough and the sudden onset of severe chills.

Ottawa Public Health estimates there have already been 25 deaths from the flu in Ottawa.

The numbers from Gatineau are less precise, but OPH says that in Ottawa, 23 of those flu-related deaths have been among people older than 65 or in other high-risk groups.

In the few cases where younger people have died from the flu, they usually had other health issues.

OPH considers the flu vaccine an effective tool, but says even then, and among low-risk groups, complications related to the flu are possible in healthy people.

"It's not about, 'I have this symptom and I don't have that one.' It's about overall, I'm severely ill, I'm not coping at home,' go seek medical attention," Cadieux said.

'She was always there for us'

Outaouais Public Health officials have told Marengère that Thibaudeau had type B influenza, a form of flu that usually targets children, but has been affecting mostly older adults this season.

Thibaudeau was a mother of two boys aged 5 and 6. Her husband said he doesn't want others to go through the same ordeal.

"She was always there for us, for me and my sons, and now the spot where she sits to watch TV, the emptiness in our bed, it's going to be felt for a long time," Marengère said.

"I don't think I'm going to get used to it. I'm always going to have her there watching over me."

Correction : An earlier version of this story stated Cynthia Thibaudeau first went to hospital Feb. 16 and died the following Monday. In fact Thibaudeau first went to hospital Feb. 9 and died Feb. 12.(Feb 22, 2018 10:51 AM)