Swine flu victim airlifted abroad as toll rises to 18
A swine flu victim has been airlifted to Sweden for specialist treatment as it emerged that three more people have died from the flu.
Padraig Gregan (32) from Coolboy, Co Wicklow was transferred to Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm after suffering major deterioration to his lungs because of the virus.
He was flown out by private plane, to begin a highly specialised procedure known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (Ecmo).
Doctors at Cork University Hospital informed Mr Gregan's family that air pockets were building up around his lungs, and they would continue to get worse without the treatment, but the Ecmo unit in the Mater hospital was full. His sister Mary Gregan Kinsella told the Herald: "They couldn't get a machine in the Mater, and Cork had run out of options.
"He was on an oscillator machine there, and towards the end of last week, the doctors told us that it was doing more damage than good because it was building up air pockets in his lungs.
"We were lucky that one was available in Sweden. It's what swine flu is after doing to his body that they now have to get right. There was little or no improvement in his lungs, and it's only now that they're starting to heal."
Ecmo involves circulating the patient's blood outside the body and adding oxygen to it artificially -- and it is used when a person's lungs are functioning very poorly even with ventilation and high levels of oxygen.
The death toll from winter flu has risen to 18 following confirmation that three more people have died of the illness.
Overall 803 people have had to be hospitalised with flu during the course of the winter but the numbers who had to be admitted fell last week.
Mr Gregan is now officially free from swine flu, but his family have been told that it may take up to 10 weeks for his respiratory system to recover.