Since falling ill during a business trip in Europe on January 18, Jonathan Watson has been in the ICU, with his lower legs recently getting amputated

By Joelle Goldstein
February 11, 2020
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A Southern California community is rallying behind a father of three who contracted two severe illnesses while on a business trip overseas that have now left him fighting for his life.

Jonathan Watson was a healthy individual, focused on raising his three sons — 7-year-old Landon, 6-year-old Maddox and 3-year-old Wyatt — with wife Megan Watson before he “fell seriously ill” on January 18 while in Europe for work, according to a GoFundMe set up by family friend Ally Byrne.

In the weeks that have followed, Jonathan has been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, undergone multiple surgeries and even had both of his legs amputated from the knees down, as his body desperately attempts to fight off Influenza B and a bacterial blood infection, Strep A.

“‘It’s hard to imagine someone can endure all of this.’ Words spoken by Jon’s doctors,” Byrne wrote on the GoFundMe. “Clearly they don’t know Jon.”

“His survival of this illness up to this point, and multiple surgeries afterward were the first of many miracles,” Byrne added of the father.

Jonathan Watson with his son
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Byrne said Jonathan, who works as a Business Unit Manager at Hartwell Corporation, was first admitted to Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills before the “staff quickly realized that Jon’s severe condition warranted more care than their facilities could provide” and he was transferred to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Once he arrived at the L.A. hospital, doctors put him and all of his main organs (except for his brain) on life support, temporarily inserted a blood-pumping device called an Impella and deemed him “the sickest patient at UCLA Medical,” Byrne explained.

She also noted that doctors used extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which is a piece of cardiac and respiratory support equipment, on Jonathan to keep him alive, but that it led to poor blood circulation in his body.

However, after four days of operating at the highest possible setting, Jonathan’s doctors were able to lower the ECMO, which allowed for his previously non-operating left side of his heart to start pumping, as well as increase the right side’s speed.

Despite the progress with his heart, Jonathan still had a “very difficult uphill battle” in front of him with the streptococcal infection and Influenza B. Byrne said doctors were having trouble determining which he contracted first.

Jonathan Watson with his son
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“We’ve all heard of [strep] or even had it. Who knew such a common bacterial infection could turn into something so deadly??” Byrne wrote on the GoFundme. “Unfortunately Strep A’s severe consequences are one of the biggest hurdles Jon’s body has to fight and overcome.”

Part of those “severe consequences” included the fact that Jonathan’s body was not responding to the antibiotics doctors were using, leaving them perplexed with the severity of his condition.

“To quote his doctor at Saddleback hospital (before we knew it was bacterial Strep A) ‘This is by far the biggest, and worst virus I have ever seen in my career, this is newsworthy, one for medical books,'” Byrne recalled. “Jon’s team at UCLA have commonly referred to the havoc the bacteria has wreaked on his system as a ‘nuclear bomb going off inside his body.'”

The double illnesses eventually spread and developed into Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS), a life-threatening complication of certain bacterial infections, which then led to Jonathan’s leg amputations on February 3.

“Using the bloodstream, bacteria from the infection ‘set up camp’ in several areas of Jon’s body, [and] as a result, his system went into septic shock and basically shut down,” Byrne explained, noting that his feet were one of the affected areas where bacteria was multiplying.

After performing multiple attempts to save his limbs, doctors were forced to amputate both of Jonathan’s legs from the knees down but hoped that the dead tissue removal would officially get rid of the bacteria and encourage the antibiotics to work.

Jonathan Watson with his son
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“Needless to say, this is a devastating blow for someone as active as Jon,” Byrne wrote of the amputations. “The employee who chooses to go to the gym on his lunch breaks instead of heading to a restaurant. The friend who once ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain or completed a Tough Mudder just for the thrill of it … The dad who runs up and down the football and soccer fields encouraging his sons as they play their hardest.”

“A devastating blow doesn’t seem to quite cover it. But what else is there to say?” she added.

Since then, Jonathan’s health has been up and down. Doctors have kept a watchful eye on his condition, each day figuring out the best course of action to bring him back to consciousness, remove fluid from his lungs, manage his blood pressure, and ultimately cure him of this severe health crisis.

“In an effort to be measured and not offer false hope, Jon’s doctors want make sure the family is aware that Jon is in a very ‘dark place’ and his overall prognosis is grim,” Byrne wrote. “But with that being said, they are determined to keep going ‘until something gets worse or better.'”

“Jon continues to fight, and he’s fighting HARD but he is in uncharted waters here,” she wrote. “No one as sick as Jon, with the conditions he has, has ever made it this far … Each obstacle, each triumph, each setback is a step further into the unknown.”

Megan Watson with her sons
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As of Sunday, Jonathan was beginning to look around more, though doctors were unsure if he was comprehending anything and whether he had any muscle control, according to Byrne.

While they wait for Jonathan to officially wake up, Byrne asked the Watson family’s supporters to send videos talking to Jonathan as a way to help “trigger awareness” and help him recover from his coma.

“Scientists have even been able to prove that people in a coma who are talked to and engaged with regularly actually wake up sooner,” she explained. “We’ve definitely observed this to be true with Jon. Multiple people at his bedside have reported more eye movement activity while talking and reading to him.”

In the meantime, Byrne acknowledged how Megan is amazingly putting “one foot in front of the other” and being strong for her boys, who have all asked to keep a photo of Jonathan above their beds so that they can “kiss and talk to daddy each night before they fall asleep.”

With Jonathan’s fate currently up in the air, Byrne said the family is confident that the father of three will make it through this.

“There is nothing in this world that Jon can’t conquer,” she wrote. “He is literally the ‘Jack of all trades’, the smartest, funniest, most caring human. Ask him a question, he’ll answer it then tell you the research behind it. Ask him for a favor, he’ll be the first first one to show up.”

“Tell him your troubles, he’ll do his best to solve them then research how to prevent them in the future. Give him your ideas, he’ll engineer a way to make them a reality,” she continued. “Tell him a mundane story, he’ll make it side-splittingly hilarious. Give him a challenge, he’ll make it his bitch. And guess what STSS, you’re his next bitch…”

For those interested in helping the Watson Family, donations can be made to their GoFundMe or Caring Bridge page.

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This article originally appeared on People.com