ESPN Reporter Edward Aschoff Dies After Pneumonia and HLH Diagnosis—Here's What That Means
The reporter died on Christmas Eve, on his 34th birthday.
ESPN Reporter Edward Aschoff died Tuesday on his 34th birthday after being diagnosed with multifocal pneumonia and a rare disease known as HLH. And now, his fiancée Katy Berteau, is explaining his situation via Twitter.
In a series of tweets, Berteau explained to her best ability what happened to Aschoff—something that would've been important to him. "As a journalist, it was of the utmost importance to him that stories be accurate," she wrote.
Berteau went on to explain that "Edward was admitted to the hospital a week after our first visit to the ER, where he was diagnosed with multifocal pneumonia," she wrote. "After failed antibiotic treatment, with worsening of symptoms, we took him back to the ER and he was immediately admitted."
Unfortunately, the antibiotic treatment failed and his condition worsened. "After many tests—bone marrow and lung biopsies—treatment was started for a presumed diagnosis of HLH, an unregulated, over-activation of the immune system that causes it to attack itself and other healthy tissues," she continued. "Within 3 days of being moved into the ICU, he passed."
What exactly is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a lung infection—in which air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid or pus—caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Similar to colds or flu, it’s often spread in the winter through coughing, sneezing, or touching germy surfaces. It can even be a complication of a bad bout with the influenza virus; the flu is a common cause of pneumonia in adults, according to the American Lung Association (ALA).
Symptoms of pneumonia, which can be present in one or both lungs, include cough, fever, and shortness of breath, sharp chest pain, and loss of appetite, among others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year there are around 1 million Americans sent to the hospital with pneumonia, and about 50,000 die from the disease.
Okay, so what is HLH?
HLH, which stands for hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, is an extremely rare disease that affects the immune system, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. It can be inherited or acquired through infections, immune suppressing medications, immunodeficiencies, cancer, or metabolic diseases.
Symptoms include fever, enlarged liver and/or spleen, skin rash, lymph node enlargement, breathing problems, easy bruising and/or abnormal bleeding, kidney abnormalities, and heart problems.
Treatment varies and is dependent on the severity of symptoms, the age of onset, and the underlying cause of the condition. (For example, for those with acquired HLH, treating the underlying condition is often the objective). Other treatments can include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, steroids, or even stem cell transplants.
Prognosis for those with HLH—both familial and acquired—is not great. According to the GARD, the long-term outlook of familial forms without any treatment is poor, with a median survival of less than two to six months after diagnosis. Even with treatment, the five-year survival rate is just 21-26 percent. “The course of the disease and life expectancy are not well studied in adults with familial HLH,” they explain. As for people with acquired HLH, the prognosis varies and is dependent on the underlying cause.
At this point it is unclear what type of HLH Aschoff had, or how it was related to his pneumonia. However, on December 5 he himself expressed shock about his diagnosis and suggested it was acquired. "Anyone ever had multifocal (bilateral) pneumonia in their early 30s as some who never gets sick and has a very good immune system? Asking for two friends ... my lungs," he tweeted.
At the end of her Twitter thread, Berteau thanked Aschoff's followers for sending their condolences, adding that she would share details of Aschoff's memorial service as soon as she knew more. "Thank you all again for loving him as much as he loved you," she wrote.
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