By JORDAN BERND
URSULINE HIGH SCHOOL, 16, JUNIOR
The sounds of the propellers of the helicopter and the flight nurse telling me “everything is going to be OK” were the last few things that I remembered before being flown Oct. 7, 2009, to Oakland Children’s Hospital.
During this time, the H1N1 virus had been making its way into the bodies of millions of children across the U.S. A few days earlier, I began to develop symptoms of a cold or flu, having a cough and sore throat. I was taken to the emergency room at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and was prescribed Vicodin for my pain. The next day, I began having difficulties breathing, and my chest felt like it was on fire. My mother decided that taking me back to the emergency room was the best idea.
We were in the waiting room for about five minutes when I began feeling my chest tightening up and breathing became difficult. The registration nurse evaluated me, immediately became concerned with what she saw and asked me if I was able to walk back into the emergency room. When I tried to stand up, my legs collapsed. The nurses put me in a wheelchair, and I was rushed to an open bed. The nurses consulted with the doctors and immediately gave me an oxygen mask to help with my breathing. Within 10 minutes, the doctors told my mother that I would need to be airlifted to Children’s Hospital to receive better treatment. This hospital is known for its amazing care that is provided to kids, and savings lives is simply what they do.
The doctors discovered during the helicopter ride that my right lung had collapsed. My blood oxygen level was at 58 percent upon arriving at the hospital. According to the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases, a blood oxygen level of less than 88 percent is life-threatening. They intubated me and put me on a ventilator. The doctors administered several antibiotics because they were unsure of what the actual bacteria was. They knew it was an extremely aggressive bacteria because of the rate at which the infection was spreading. They began working against time to slow the spreading of the infection throughout my lungs. The infectious disease doctor concluded I had staphylococcus aureus pneumonia, which is a bacteria in the lungs.
I was on life support for 10 days, and during this time I had three additional pneumothoraxes (two in my right lung and one in my left lung). At times, the doctors were unsure if they would be able to stabilize me. I was awake throughout the majority of this time, but because of the strong medications I received, I no longer have any memory of what happened. However, I do remember times when I would wake up in my hospital room and be surrounded by cards, balloons and flowers.
The support from my community was truly a blessing. Whenever my mom read a card out loud to me, it seemed as though I gained more power and drive to get through my illness. It was prayers and positive thinking that saved my life. Within a week of arriving at Children’s Hospital, the doctors felt that I was going to make it. On the 10th day of being in the ICU, I was taken off the ventilator. My doctors were not sure I would be able to breathe without it, but studies show that being on a ventilator for more than 10 days can cause even more serious risks. I was able to breathe with only the help of a nasal oxygen tube. On Oct. 26, 2009, I was released from the ICU and brought to the upper floor, where I underwent physical therapy. During my time in the upper floor, I regained my strength slowly and was discharged Nov. 3.
This experience is one that I will never forget. It has changed me as a person for the better, and I now realize to never take anything in life for granted. My life was dependent on the doctors and nurses at the hospital, but it also was dependent upon my faith. Many people in my community were constantly praying for me, and this is what I believe helped me get through this experience. I owe my life to the team at Children’s Hospital but also to the amazing support of my family, friends and the rest of my community.