Visalia man has near-death experience while battling strep throat

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Saturday, July 2, 2022
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Mike Smith and his wife, Jenny, are counting their blessings after Mike had a near-death experience in April.

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Mike Smith and his wife, Jenny, are counting their blessings after Mike had a near-death experience in April.

He was diagnosed with strep throat. The day after, he used Chloraseptic spray, known to relieve sore throats.

Instead of feeling better, Mike's throat started closing up, leading to scary and tense moments for him and his wife.

"He sprays the throat spray and immediately, I happen to have my phone in my hand, I looked at him and I said, 'I'm calling 911.'"

Mike made his way outside as he struggled to breathe when suddenly, Jenny found herself performing CPR. The tense moments were all caught on their Ring camera.

She has a medical background and knew how to react. Doctors say it was her actions that saved his life.

"In a way, it was brutal watching me go down and her doing CPR and paramedics, but very thankful she ran ambulance," Mike said. "She saved my life."

The couple says they felt the spray caused the inflammation and never plan to use it again.

"The doctor explained to me that when the spray hit, it actually did its job," Jenny said. "It attacked bacteria, but it caused it to inflame and cut off his breathing. "

Dr. Paul Marks and Dr. Garrett Morgan, who saw Mike at Kaweah Health Medical Center, say this case was a first for them and cannot rule out the spray is to blame.

Doctors say Mike was dealing with more than strep throat.

"He had strep, which turned into epiglottitis," Dr. Morgan said. "It's an infection that causes swelling, and anything that irritates it can make the swelling worse instantly."

Over-the-counter medications have warning labels and when asked if they are safe to use, doctors say it's a case by case basis.

"Any medication, even if it's over the counter, can have problems, it can have reactions," Dr. Morgan said. "It's hard to say if the spray had any effect."

Action News reached out to the company that makes Chloraseptic multiple times for comment on this story and we have yet to hear back.

But overall, Dr. Paul Marks say cases of epiglottitis are rare.

He says there are less than 20,000 epiglottitis cases in the country annually.

His message to anyone diagnosed with strep is to be mindful of severe symptoms that could indicate the infection is much worse like it was for Mike.

"It's not something people will come across very often, but if things progress, people can die," he said.

Doctors were impressed with Mike's quick recovery, especially after being in the ICU for about three days.

Mike says his voice isn't fully back to normal, but he's feeling thankful to be alive and well.