H1N1 claims life of Williams Lake man

Harjit Shergill’s husband Barinder Mahil died from H1N1 on Jan. 21. The 37-year-old Williams Lake woman hopes her husband’s  death  will inspire other people to seriously research options when it comes to the flu shot. - Monica Lamb-Yorski photo
Harjit Shergill’s husband Barinder Mahil died from H1N1 on Jan. 21. The 37-year-old Williams Lake woman hopes her husband’s death will inspire other people to seriously research options when it comes to the flu shot.
— image credit: Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

A 37-year-old man from Williams Lake died of H1N1 in St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on Jan. 21.

His widow Harjit Shergill, 36, said she doesn’t want to create panic, however, she does want people to be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to get the flu shot.

Her husband, Barinder Mahil, did get pneumonia quite often, she said, and while the family got flu shots now and then, they did not get one this year.

“We didn’t know that if a person has pneumonia or underlying conditions they should get the flu shot,” Shergill said Thursday.

“Maybe it would have helped. We’ll never know.”

Shergill, her daughter Priya, 9, and son Mokam, 12, are still in shock because Mahil’s death came so quickly.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, she and the children got the flu and Mahil was taking care of all of them.

It wasn’t until two days later, that Mahil started getting sick himself.

“Friday he woke up and he looked sicker than normal,” Shergill recalled.

“His bottom lip was yellow and crusted.”

She told him he should go to the hospital that morning. So he made the school lunches, dropped the kids off at school, did some errands and then drove himself to the hospital.

Moments after he checked in at the hospital, he collapsed.

By 11:30 a.m. the hospital called Shergill at work to tell her he was in the emergency ward. He wasn’t breathing and they were flying him to Vancouver.

“When I got there he was on life support and the critical care team was en route from Vancouver.”

Four hours later, they had stabilized Mahil and the air ambulance left for Lion’s Gate Hospital in Vancouver.

At Lion’s Gate they put him in a special glass room in the intensive care ward for people with H1N1. Lab tests would take five days, but they were treating him as if he had it, she said.

After a couple of days, his lungs stopped producing oxygen so he was transferred to St. Paul’s Hospital where they have a Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine that oxidizes blood. He also required a blood transfusion.

Some time during the night Monday he went down hill and had to be re-stabilized.

“Tuesday I felt they were doing their routine checks, but already he wasn’t there,” she said.

Mahil passed away Tuesday evening. Earlier in the day the lab confirmed he had H1N1.

Later the doctors told Shergill they thought she and the children had H1N1, too, but their bodies were stronger and able to fight it.

“We can’t get over how quick it was,” she said. “We went from Friday thinking he had the flu to Tuesday and he had already passed away.”

Shergill said in Williams Lake people who see things on the news about H1N1 might not think it could happen close to home.

“It did come here to a normal family in Williams Lake and one of us got sick really fast,” she said.

Mahil did receive immediate and excellent medical care in Williams Lake and Vancouver, Shergill added.

The family has lived in Williams Lake for two and half years. Previously they were in Alexis Creek and Quesnel.

Shergill is originally from Richmond.

Mahil’s funeral was in Vancouver on Jan. 26.

Interior Health declined to comment on the case, however, confirmed Tuesday in another interview that there have been three deaths of people who had lab confirmed H1N1 within Interior Health this year.


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