Everyone has heard how dangerous the swine flu is. Many of us have even suffered through having the swine flu. Unfortunately, the swine flu affected a close family member more than most.
Becky is only forty years old. She smokes, but doesn’t drink. Like most, she gets a few colds a year. Then she got sick with what she thought was just a bad cold. After two weeks of suffering without any improvement, she couldn’t even stand up without getting dizzy. She headed to the hospital.
At the hospital, Becky was diagnosed with the H1N1 flu, or swine flu, as well as double pneumonia. Double pneumonia means both lungs are infected. She was admitted for treatment. Three days later, she became agitated and was resisting treatment. The doctor decided to put her in a coma to continue the treatment. She was moved to the ICU.
I visited Becky the day she was put in the ICU. She looked awful. She was unconscious, with a breathing tube down her throat. The nurses hooked her up to several different machines to monitor her progress. Becky also had IV antibiotics to fight the pneumonia. Her lungs were both half full of fluid.
Later, when the doctors attempted to bring Becky out of the coma, she wouldn’t wake up. Two days later, another doctor ordered an MRI and found that she had suffered several mini strokes. When she had become agitated before being put under, a blood clot had come loose, eventually traveling to the blood vessels in her brain. The strokes were the reason the previous attempts to wake her had been unsuccessful.
Once the doctors were able to wake Becky from the coma, they learned another disheartening effect of her illness. She was blind. What began as the swine flu became a life-changing disability. She couldn’t talk at first, couldn’t get up, and couldn’t eat. The strokes affected her motor skills, and caused her blindness.
The doctors predicted Becky would be in the hospital for months, and then spend several more months in a rehabilitation center. It was a shock. After a couple of weeks, she was moved out of the ICU and into another unit of the hospital. The doctors inserted a permanent feeding tube. Suddenly, she started improving at a phenomenal rate. Rather than spend months in the hospital, she was released after just a couple more weeks.
Her mother in law had been a nurse years before. She took classes to update the skills she would need to take care of Becky. Becky is home with her now. While she will need full time home care for at least the next six months, if she continues to improve she will be able to return home to her husband and dog without the need for a full time care nurse. She is talking, and her motor skills are starting to return. She has said she can see shadows. Becky has been having hallucinations. The doctors say this is good; that the hallucinations mean her brain is trying to rewire itself to do all of the things it used to before the stroke.
Swine flu caused all of these things to happen. Becky is my reminder that this could happen to any one of us.