Journal entry by Allison Byrne

Sometimes, it’s the Little Things.

Let’s talk about all of the “little” things because in order for the big picture to become clear, all the little things have to come together in just the right way. And, for clarity’s sake, I’m speaking comparatively here. The measures taken in each of these instances were absolutely life-saving and, in the real world, are a pretty big deal but when you take into consideration all Jon’s body has been through, “little” seems appropriate. 

I briefly reviewed on update one that Jon’s Impella was removed successfully. For review, an Impella is a medical device used for temporary ventricular support. The Impella saved Jon from his severe heart failure as previously discussed but once it was removed he was faced with a few more obstacles. Without the Impella Jon’s heart had very little pulsatility, despite very high doses of epinephrine and milrinone (medicines that help kick the heart in gear) increasing the chances of a clot. If a clot occurred, we were told there was really not much they could do at that point, worst case scenario. But, as if Jon knew he was underperforming (don’t ever play Scattergories with him, or Megan for that matter, underperforming is just not in their vocabulary), shortly after receiving this news, his heart started to show the first signs of recovery. That recovery trend continued for two more days which gave Jon’s team the confidence to dial back his Ecmo machine from 4.6 to 3.97 on Monday. Remember the Ecmo is a life support system for his heart that oxygenates his blood allowing his heart to go on what we hope is a short vacation. We continue to see more signs of recovery from his heart, laying the foundation for his other major organs to begin their road to recovery, too.  

Let’s move to Jon’s lungs because at the very least, they deserve to win Best Supporting Role. Initial chest x-rays of Jon’s lungs looked like one big gray cloud with no discernible features. The fluid retention had overtaken his lung cavities but removing that fluid would be no easy feat. Since Jon was on blood thinners to allow his blood to move more easily through the Ecmo, getting to the lungs, behind the chest cavity, posed a serious risk. Keep in mind his low heart pulsatility, meaning less blood production. Jon needs every possible drop of blood in his body. Despite the risk, on Sunday his team moved forward with a fluid pull from his lungs removing two full liters of fluid. I’ll say that again...Two. Full. Liters! Picture two, one liter soda bottles. Think about how much you cough when getting just a small amount of fluid down the wrong pipe. Jon’s lungs deserve their own award ceremony in my opinion.

On to that nasty word from last night...amputation. I guarantee, we’ll never be able to add up the hours of lost sleep we’ve all suffered trying to wrap our heads around this concept. What we haven’t relayed is the lengths at which Jon’s medical team went to try and save his lower limbs. Dopler scans, massages, antibiotic regimen changes, and the last-ditch invasive effort of a Fasciotomy. Jon received a Fasciotomy on both the interior and exterior of both calves. A Fasciotomy is a potential limb-saving surgical procedure where the skin is cut to relieve pressure and treat resulting loss of circulation to tissue or muscle. Unfortunately despite all the above mentioned efforts to save Jon’s lower leg limbs, none were successful and amputation was literally the only option.

Sometimes, in life things just don’t work out the way you’d hoped. Sometimes the resulting disappointments of your former hopes can bring you to the darkest of places. Sometimes you just need to scream “What the f**ck!!!!” into your blanket in an LA hospital waiting room as loud as your healthy lungs will allow. And sometimes you need to let your friends, family, village pick you up off the hospital lobby floor and face this Brave New World together. Sometimes life just doesn’t make any sense...

Oh, and don’t think we forgot that behind each of those “little things” was a team of medical professionals rallying around Jon and Megan. Per Megan’s request, her “girl squad” came together today to make a care basket for Jon’s medical team, complete with protein shakes, granola bars, beef jerky, restaurant gift cards, and homemade “life-saving” cookies. Because sometimes a “little” thank you just doesn’t quite cut it. 

#EffSTSS #WatsonNation
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Journal entry by Allison Byrne

Streptococcal Infection (invasive group A strep, GAS) more commonly known as “strep”. We’ve all heard of it or even had it. Who knew such a common bacterial infection could turn into something so deadly?? I didn’t. Unfortunately Strep A’s severe consequences are the one of the biggest hurdles Jon’s body has to fight and overcome. 

The vast majority of Strep A cases are relatively mild, in fact many people who carry it display no symptoms of the disease at all. Sadly, in some cases, these bacteria can cause much more severe and life-threatening diseases such as Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS). It is unknown if Jon contracted Influenza B first, then Strep A, or if it was in the reverse order. Regardless, the presence of both of in Jon’s system allowed Strep A’s bacteria to spread and manifest into one of its rare forms: STSS. STSS is a rapidly progressing infection causing low blood pressure, shock and injury to organs such as kidneys, liver, and lungs. Approximately 60% of patients with STSS will die of the disease. 

It wasn’t until Friday, three days after being admitted to the hospital, that Jon’s medical team was able to positively diagnose the presence of Strep A. Cultures taken at Saddleback hospital when he was initially admitted on Wednesday had incubated long enough to allow for testing and diagnosis. With this new information, Jon’s medical team at UCLA was able to introduce an additional antibiotic to his current broad-spectrum antibiotic regimen. It was everyone’s hope that this new antibiotic would start to lower the infection levels in Jon’s system. Unfortunately so far, this has not been the case. It is still unknown why his new medicine has not been as effective as we had hoped but there are many possible scenarios. One of which, and most obviously, is that Jon’s infection is quite severe. 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”. 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 infection might be so big and wide-spread that the antibiotic needs more time to gain the upper hand on it. Another possible reason why we might not be seeing the results we want yet is his multiple life support systems. The human body is simply not designed to have foreign objects (i.e. plastic tubing, etc.) inside of it for extended periods of time. We’ve been told that his Strep A bacteria constantly adhere themselves to all foreign objects and use them essentially as breeding grounds. Whatever the reason, we try not to let the disappointing Strep A bacterial levels dampen our hopes. 

So what does this infection mean for Jon and his recovery?

Now it’s time to remove the sunshine filter and reveal what a real asshole STSS is. Using the bloodstream, bacteria from the infection “set up camp” in several areas of Jon’s body, as a result his system went into septic shock and basically shut down. This sudden shock sent a message to Jon’s heart telling it to not only reserve its blood supply but to move it away from his extremities and focus on his vital organs. Once blood flow was diverted away from his extremities, areas like his feet slowly started to die. Compounding this problem, bacteria from his STSS infection treated these dying areas like playgrounds; multiplying his bacteria levels exponentially. As a result, both of Jon’s legs from the knees down had to be amputated tonight. The amputation surgery was successful and Jon is currently back in the Critical Care Unit recovering under full sedation. The hope is that removing the dead tissue will also remove the breeding ground for bacteria and allow his body and antibiotic to finally gain the upper hand. Although the surgery was successful, it does not guarantee there won’t be a need for further amputation surgeries in Jon’s future. Needless to say, this is a devastating blow for someone as active as Jon. 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 brother who ran through the corn fields of Iowa as a child. The husband who takes pride in his recently-purchased beautiful home in Orange County and refuses to hire a gardener, insisting that he likes working in his yard. 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???

We’re with you Jon, Megan, Landon, Maddox, Wyatt, and Kris. We’re not giving up. We’re fighting right along side you. You are not alone. 

Again, thank you for the continued support and love you have all shown Jon and his family during some of their darkest hours. 


Journal entry by Allison Byrne

Jon remains in critical condition and has been categorized as “the sickest patient at UCLA Medical”.  Despite this unwelcome title Jon continues to fight. His body currently relies on life support for all of his main organs; with the exception of his brain which we believe remains unaffected (yay for small victories!). 
While the health of all of his major organs play an important role in his recovery, his team places his heart at the center of that recovery right now. The life-saving equipment that was rushed from UCLA to Saddleback hospital in order to save Jon’s life shortly after he was admitted is called an ECMO. An ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) provides prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to Jon’s heart by removing  blood from his body, oxygenating it, then putting it back into his system. An ECMO is a relatively new intervention for adults and is considered the highest form of life support one can receive. It also comes with a large list of side effects and possible complications. One of which is proper blood circulation to all of Jon’s body and extremities. Poor circulation remains a major concern for Jon, his doctors, and family as it has a rippling effect on Jon’s muscles and risk of growing infection in his bloodstream. 
In addition to circulation concerns, the ECMO provides what his doctors refer to as a “vacation” for his weakened heart as it performs the job Jon’s heart would ordinarily do. When the heart is not operating normally blood tends to pool in both the right and left sides, causing concern for future clots. In order to prevent this, Jon received a successful procedure to drain the excess pooled blood from his heart shortly after arriving at UCLA. 
Due to the severity of his heart failure, Jon’s ECMO was operating at the highest possible setting for the first four days. On Saturday, Jon’s doctors lowered his setting slightly in hopes that his heart would pick up the slack. Jon’s heart answered by doing just that!  His left, formerly non-operating side, started pumping and his right side increased its pumping (another victory!). 
Last week Jon had another procedure performed to further assist the operation of his heart. A device called an Impella was placed through a peripheral artery and from there started pumping blood to his heart.  An Impella is only meant to provide temporary ventricular support and was removed two days later. 
We are at the beginning of a very long and very difficult uphill battle for Jon’s life. His team of doctors remain hopeful and continually remind us that Jon’s recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Jon has many more obstacles and procedures to overcome, each of which will be critical in sustaining his life. Although initially the family was uncomfortable with the GoFundMe platform of asking for money, the life-altering, and long-term financial consequences of Jon’s illness are quickly becoming apparent. It is almost impossible to assign an amount to the lifelong financial commitment but all donations, large or small are appreciated. As a result we have raised the goal for this GoFundMe campaign to more accurately reflect the mounting difficulties that lie ahead for the Watson family. 
Again, we cannot express our most heart-felt gratitude to the dedicated and vast team at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical. We also couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing outpour of support and love from our nation-wide community. We welcome and rely on the support you have all provided the Watson family as they continue to fight alongside Jon. 
Jonathan’s Story

Site created on February 1, 2020

On January 18, 2020, Jonathan Watson fell seriously ill from Influenza B and a bacterial blood infection, Strep A while on a business trip in Europe.   His survival of this illness up to this point, and multiple surgeries afterward were the first of many miracles for Jon.  Initially admitted at Saddleback hospital, the staff quickly realized that Jon’s severe condition warranted more care than their facilities could provide. Jon’s illness had progressed so quickly that only a helicopter could safely transport him to a more properly equipped hospital. Unfortunately, due to the occurrence of strong winds, transport by helicopter was deemed unsafe.  As a result a team from UCLA medical came to Jon at Saddleback and administered a life-saving treatment to stabilize him enough to be safely transported by ambulance to UCLA medical.

We are beyond grateful for the advances in modern medicine that have kept Jon alive while his body tries to heal during this time.He currently remains in critical condition at UCLA medical. Please keep the entire Watson family in your thoughts and prayers for these next critical days, weeks, and possible months.  

In 2005 Jon graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.S. in Engineering.  After graduating he moved to California and started his career at Meggitt Defense as head of their sales department. Driven to challenge himself professionally and further provide for his family, Jon transitioned from engineering, to the business side of commercial aerospace. He currently works at Hartwell Corporation as a Business Unit Manager. In December of 2019 Jon graduated from Pepperdine University earning his MBA. 

In 2009 Jon married the love of his life, Megan who is a full-time stay at home mom caring for their three boys; 7 year old Landon, 6 year old Maddox and 3 year old Wyatt.  

The family is so grateful for the staff at Saddleback Memorial in Laguna Hills California as well as the heroic staff at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical center who continue to work tirelessly on Jons behalf 24 hours a day.

All donations are being sent directly to Megan Watson, his wife, on behalf of Jon. 

In order to allow Megan to fully focus on her family, please direct all well wishes and thoughts to his GoFundMe page or follow Jon’s progress and communicate with her on this caring bridge site.