"Daddy's going to get new legs. He's going to get 'Iron Man' legs."
That's what Fort Worth residents Jaye and Brian Herndon are telling their children, 5 and 2, after Brian's bout with pneumonia and the flu required amputation of his feet and nine fingers.
"They have seen him. They know what Daddy's lost," Jaye Herndon told the Star-Telegram. "But that doesn't change anything about who he is or what he means to us or his role in our family."
On Jan. 3, Brian, 51, had a low-grade fever. On Jan. 4, it was running higher, and by 6 p.m. Jaye had taken her husband to the hospital. By 7:30 p.m., tests revealed he had pneumonia.
The next day, Jan. 5, when the family learned that his pneumonia had combined with this year's particularly deadly flu virus, he was in septic shock.
Doctors detected no pulse in his feet for a few days. That's when they knew they'd have to amputate. Two weeks later, doctors at Dallas' Baylor University Medical Center had to take both of Brian's feet and nine of his 10 fingers.
He had developed something called disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. The condition causes micro-clots in a patient's bloodstream, affecting blood flow starting with the fingers and feet.
"This flu is serious business," Jaye Herndon said. "People need to pay attention to it. Do not send your kids to school with a fever. We have to help each other out. Not everyone's body deals with the flu like maybe yours does."
The family is hopeful that Brian will be released from Baylor's ICU by the end of this week. The next step would be a long-term acute-care facility to see him through the longer-term healing process.
"We might actually get to come home to Fort Worth, which would be so great," Jaye said.
Brian, who works for the federal government, loves going to the shooting range, bird hunting and Dallas Stars games. He also loses a lot of wrestling matches to his two children.
"We'll need some prosthetic fingers to aid with shooting," Jaye said. "But eventually those will all be things that he is able to enjoy again. He's a man of faith, and we're all just trusting God to carry him through and bring us to that new normal."
The Herndon family has started a GoFundMe page for help with Brian's prosthetic feet and fingers.
Jaye said Brian did not get a flu shot this season.
As heartbreaking as the episode has been for the Herndon family, septic shock, disseminated intravascular coagulopathy and amputation of feet is not the worst case scenario for flu sufferers. There have been 54 flu-related deaths in Dallas County since Oct. 1, and at least 23 in Tarrant County, according to authorities.
And even if you got through January without getting sick, you're not out of the woods yet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity can last into May.