James Flath, 26, died on Sunday during a family ski trip in what is being called a “perfect storm” of the flu and altitude sickness.
“It was a really unfortunate series of events,” James father, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, told Fox News. “The flu combined with high altitude sickness … and he had sleep apnea, which may have caused some of the problems.”
James felt sick when he arrived in Colorado on Friday. On Saturday morning, James was still not feeling well went to a nearby urgent care. Doctors told him he had the flu and to take it easy. James decided lay low around the condo and rest.
He family and girlfriend, left the condo for a short period of time to get dinner. They returned to find James breathing but unresponsive.
They rushed him to the hospital where he died on Sunday morning from respiratory failure attributed to altitude sickness.
“James loved life. He always liked doing things for other people and rooting for the underdog.”
Flath, who was due to be best man at his brother’s wedding in April, had just in January moved to a pharmaceutical marketing agency in Kansas, after working at Garmin International, a leading tech company which helps social media influencers earn money through advertising.
The grieving father, also from Lee Summit in Missouri, said they had no sign his condition would deteriorate that fast.
‘He said, ‘Go have fun!’,’ Flath remembered of Saturday night when they were deciding whether or not to go to dinner. ‘I don’t think he or us realized how sick he was.’
Altitude sickness is a deadly condition that is often dismissed as an unlikely killer.
In Colorado, the sickness is incredibly common, given that most of the state is high above sea level. According to a recent study, around 30 percent of tourists to the state’s mountain areas get altitude sickness. In Denver, which is a mile above sea level, that number drops to a not-insignificant 10 percent.
The illness does not discriminate – it affects all genders and ages. Though, obviously, people with sicknesses and the elderly are more susceptible, the risk is relatively uniform for the rest of the population.
In fact, experts say the most physically fit have the highest risk, because they exert themselves more than they should (it takes up to 36 hours to acclimatize).
To honor his memory, the family has launched a social media campaign called #Give4Jimmer, urging everyone to perform random acts of kindness.