Swine Flu victim survives coma to climb to new heights - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Swine Flu victim survives coma to climb to new heights

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By News 8 Reporter Craig McKee

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Looking at photos from a recent hike up to Mount Whitney's peak, Keith Stumpf pauses on one photo.

"That's one of my favorite shots the sun coming up," he recalls.

It's a sunrise Keith never thought he'd see.  An active mountain biker and hiker, Keith had trained to climb Mount Whitney, but then he came down with the H1N1 virus in August of 2009.

"I didn't think this was going to happen to anybody, especially myself," he said.

After symptoms got worse he found himself in the emergency room at Sharp Memorial.

"They admitted me," he says. "Two days later I was in the ICU and they were inducing me in a medically induced coma."

He spent two and a half weeks just laying in a hospital bed as doctors did everything possible to keep him alive.  While the fight was won, Keith lost the strength he had before he got sick.

"Lost 27 pounds of basically muscle because I was on a feeding tube for that whole time I was in there," he said.

Doctors told Keith it would take six to twelve months to regain his strength, before he could pursue his original dream of climbing Mount Whitney.

He did some rehab after waking from the coma and continued to exercise and build strength. This past September 11th, twelve in a half months after being released, he climbed Mount Whitney with some friends. He adds he could tell his overall strength is still not hundred-percent.

"It's still not there, literally a year later more difficult than it would have been last year at this point," he said.

It took him about four hours longer to climb than what he intended before he got sick.  At the top he had his picture taken wearing a special t-shirt his friends gave him.

"Picture of a pig says H1N1 on there... and I survived the swine flu. I've kind of kept that shirt as a trophy as to what I went through," he said.

Although still not at the physical level he was, he plans on competing in triathlons in the near future.

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