LEWISTON, Maine — Rhonda Tilley knew her son Jordan Chase sounded wrong when he called her from boot camp in Fort Jackson, S.C.
“He said, ‘It’s just a cold, Mom,’” Tilley said. He then told her about a rigorous physical test he was scheduled to take the next day.
The 19-year-old man toughed it out, passing the test on Feb. 12. Then he sought help.
He was admitted at the local hospital that night. His family didn’t learn how sick he was until later, when doctors sent him to a bigger hospital for treatment and the Army called home to Maine. His father, Tom Chase of New Gloucester, stayed here to support the extended family. Tilley, who lives in Lewiston, immediately rushed to be at her son’s side.
By the time she reached Chase on Feb. 15, he was breathing oxygen from a tube. He was fighting pneumonia and the H1N1 flu virus.
At first he gained on it. Doctors predicted a full recovery. Then his body seemed to need more and more oxygen.
On Sunday morning, with his mother and other family at his side, Chase died.
“He was an all-around awesome kid and he had so many plans for life,” Tilley said.
Questions remain, though.
“We don’t have all the answers yet,” Tom Chase said. “It doesn’t seem to be anyone’s fault. It’s just that he may have been a little late getting to the hospital.”
The H1N1 virus — the pandemic strain that circulated widely in 2009 and 2010 — is still out there.
A national map published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows South Carolina and several other Southern states in red, signifying high levels of “influenza-like illness activity.” It lists H1N1 as a contributor.
It’s here in Maine, too.
On Jan. 31, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report saying that there was widespread influenza activity in Maine and confirmed an H1N1 case here in December.
Tom Chase blames no one for his son’s death, he said.
“He ended up in three different hospitals, and they did absolutely everything they could for him,” he said. Rather, he figures his son was doing his best to get through his training.
“He was young,” he said. “He was fit. He was determined he was going to make it through.”
He attended Lewiston High School for most of his schooling, but finished up at Gray-New Gloucester High, where he earned his diploma last year. His best subject was math. He was considering becoming an engineer, his father said.
He recently had worked at Paradigm Windows before enlisting with the Maine National Guard.
“He was so positive about going into basic training,” Tilley said. “He wanted to do the right thing and get his life squared away.
He left for South Carolina on Jan. 5.
“It was great having him home for the holidays,” she said. “And then they shipped him out.”
In the hospital, Tilley met a general, majors and her son’s drill sergeant.
“His commanders had nothing but wonderful things to say about him,” she said.
Chase had qualified as a sharpshooter and already had developed a reputation as a gutsy soldier.
“His drill sergeant said he persevered so much, they didn’t know he was sick,” she said.
His family will remember him as someone who loved the outdoors: hunting, fishing and sports.
“He adored children, he was fantastic with them,” his father said. And he doted on his nephew, who is almost 4. To him, he was “Uncle Jorder.”
“He was the best Uncle Jorder a nephew could have,” Tom Chase said.
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