A man who lost his fingers after complications from the flu is adjusting to his new normal.
Joei Smith, 33, developed severe complications from the virus, forcing doctors to amputate his fingers. He still has more surgeries to go. Smith is now getting help in his recovery, after making a brave decision to publicly talk about his health scare.
"Day in and day out, I have constant pain,” Smith said as he watched television from the sofa in his living room.
Smith had a friend in town helping him with his day-to-day tasks. They were watching a segment about Smith’s grave battle with the flu on a nationally televised medical show.
"The surgery went well," Smith said. “I’m getting pretty acclimated to my new normal.”
Smith’s new normal came after his fingers and toes turned black. In December, life-threatening flu symptoms graduated to pneumonia and sepsis. He says blood pressure medicine affected his fingers and toes.
"My situation went from 0 to 90 in a matter of a few hours,” Smith explained. “So, any help that you can get to prevent it from going this far, you get that help and save your own life.”
Smith first shared details about his health scare with WFAA several weeks ago, one day before he was scheduled to have his fingers amputated.
Smith said leading up to his positive flu diagnosis, he thought he did everything right. He was seemingly healthy, he worked out often, he had a physical one week before getting ill, and he had a flu shot in November.
"I do recommend to anyone out there that is skeptical about the flu shot, yes, you may still get the flu, but just know that those antibodies that are in the shot can save your life," Smith said.
Smith said initially doctors did not expect him to live. Strength and courage is getting him through these challenges. He admits, at times, this new normal makes him emotional.
"I have my moments,” Smith shared. “I’ve had my moments, whereas, I break down. But that doesn’t last very long.”
For now, Smith is focused on his hands healing. His toes are expected to be amputated in the future.
"I do still have open wounds on my feet, very large open wounds, that are taking time to heal," Smith said.
The young man’s story is getting national attention. The medical show "The Doctors" recently connected him with an organization that’s promised to fit him with prosthetics for his hands. Smith said faith and a strong support system have been key.
"Keep your spirits up," he said. "Life goes on. You can get through it...I am definitely going to get through this."
Smith has not been able to work since his flu diagnosis and hospitalization. His friends have launched a GoFundMe page to help Smith with his medical bills and immediate needs.