NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas – The brother of a single dad in Texas who died of flu complications Sunday is urging others to seek help quickly if they get sick.
Tim Ewalt created a GoFundMe page for his late sibling, Charlie Ewalt, whose son Linkin has special needs.
"Linkin misses his dad," an emotional Ewalt told WFAA. "I'm not sure, with his condition, how much he understands."
Linkin has CHARGE syndrome, which causes heart defects, growth retardations, and other abnormalities affecting many areas of the body, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Linkin's father was 50 years old and seemingly in good health when both brothers caught the flu in January. Tim got better, but Charlie's health continued to worsen. On Jan. 16, his family found him incoherent in bed and took him to a North Richland Hills Hospital.
When he was admitted, Charlie Ewalt had pneumonia in both lungs, his brother said on the GoFundMe page. As his health continued to decline, doctors placed him on life support. The pneumonia led to brain and lung damage, and the decision was made to take him off life support more than two weeks later. He died the night of Feb. 2.
Tim said neither he nor his brother got the flu shot, and now he's hoping his brother's story can help others avoid a similar tragedy.
"Don't wait because you never know how bad it's going to get," he told WFAA. "I've never been to the doctor because of the flu and this was a wake-up call."
Between 10,000 and 25,000 people have died from the flu in the last four months, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC provides estimated ranges because the nature of the illness and differences in state laws make it impossible to get accurate data.
In death cases, for instance, people who caught the flu may only seek medical help after they have a deadly, secondary illness like pneumonia, but no longer any trace of influenza.