The untimely death of Glenn Frey, one of the talented leads in the famous Eagles band, has left his fans saddened and the music industry has lost another great. Early reports from his publicist say his death was from Ulcerative Colitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pneumonia. You may wonder how someone dies of pneumonia in 2016.
At the turn of the Century, before we had antibiotics, pneumonia was considered "the old man's friend". A slight pulmonary infection often led to death and I remember my grandmother saying; "Cover up or you'll catch your death of pneumonia". In her day it was serious and fatal. But now we have effective antibiotics to treat pneumonia and it mainly effects people who are very young, immunocompromised or who have multiple other organ failures. So what may have happened to Mr. Frey?
Both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ulcerative Colitis are treated with medications that can affect the body's natural immune system. Because they are both "auto-immune" diseases, effective medications turn off the body's cells that cause the disease but these same medications also turn off the white cells and macrophages that fight infection. It is always a delicate balance when we use medications that affect the same cells that cause certain disease flare-ups as well as prevent infection from taking hold.
It is just speculation without knowing Mr. Frey's medical history, but he may have been too immune compromised to fight off the pneumonia...even with the best antibiotics. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ulcerative Colitis can be life altering themselves, but death from infection (pneumonia) is often what happens if a person is very ill.
It is important for older people or persons with chronic diseases to get a pneumonia vaccine. Babies are also immunized with this vaccine. This vaccine is effective in nearly 100% of Streptococcal Pneumonia strains of bacteria. But there are dozens of other bacteria and viruses that can infect the lungs also and cause pneumonia and in a person who is immunocompromised, as I suspect Glenn Frey was, the body can become overwhelmed with infection and sepsis. Even the most heroic advances in medicine can fail in some cases.
Glenn Frey was a wonderful musician and has left behind a great body of work that continues to bring joy to the listeners. RIP, Mr. Frey