JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville woman died earlier this month as she was fighting the flu, her boyfriend told News4Jax on Wednesday.
Shortly after her death, a study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that people are six times more likely to have a heart attack during the week after being diagnosed with influenza, compared to other times.
Jaclyn "Jackie" Annette Bailey, 52, died Jan. 12, according to her boyfriend, Randy Rivas. He said she had diabetes but had come down with the flu. The medical examiner will do an autopsy to determine her exact cause of death.
Rivas said he's heartbroken over the loss of his girlfriend.
"Jaclyn Annette Bailey means everything to me," he said. "It was kind of, like, heaven-sent. She was my answered prayer, meeting on Christmas. Our first date was like a gift from God."
But on Jan. 12, Bailey became bedridden after battling the flu for about a week.
"All of sudden, she came out of her room, saying, 'Take me to the hospital,'" Rivas said. "Next thing I know, she collapsed on the floor. That's when I called 911."
Rescuers rushed her to a hospital, but she died in the ambulance before they could make it to the emergency room.
Rivas said Bailey was a Type 1 diabetic, and believes she was off her medicine. But he said he's confident the flu was a factor.
"Twenty-two years, and I have never seen a flu season like this," said Dr. Anthony Magnano, a cardiologist at St. Vincent's Medical Center. "There is a definite mortality rate from the flu."
Magnano was not Bailey's doctor, but told News4Jax on Wednesday that complications from the flu are common, and it's been linked to pneumonia, arrhythmia and even heart attacks.
The newly released study from the New England Journal of Medicine discovered that people are more likely to have a heart attack during the week after being diagnosed with influenza.
This weekend alone, Magnano said, he saw six flu patients who were having heart problems.
"If you are already living with chronic conditions, and you had flu on top of that, it’s going be more severe than if you are healthy and in-shape to try to endure the flu," he said.
It's why Magnano said it's so important for people to get a flu vaccination and get medical attention when symptoms start to show.
"Take your medicine like you are supposed to," Rivas said. "Don't ignore it."
Rivas said he hopes the medical examiner finishes the autopsy soon, so he can get closure and lay his girlfriend to rest.
In the meantime, he said everyone needs to be careful this flu season and recognize the symptoms.