AURORA, Colo. – A 10-year-old Aurora girl was recently diagnosed with H1N1, more commonly known as the Swine Flu, that killed hundreds of thousands of people during a pandemic in 2009.
Keyona Richardson has remained in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Children’s Hospital Colorado for a week.
“She's still on a ventilator. She's still getting assistance to breathe, but today was the first day she was kind of with it,” her father, Corey Richardson, described to Denver7.
Last Wednesday, Keyona went to school with just a bad cough. Around noon, the school nurse contacted her mother because Keyona had a fever.
“You figure, that morning, she went to school with no problem. Her school nurse sent her home with a 102-fever,” Corey said.
A short time after, Keyona was diagnosed with pneumonia. Her mother, Kristie, said she monitored her daughter’s condition from home.
It wasn't until close to midnight when she realized something was terribly wrong with Keyona’s breathing. The Richardson family brought the 10-year-old to Children’s Hospital Colorado.
She was quickly admitted to the PICU. On Thursday, Kristie and Corey recall Keyona being alert and playful.
They said she fell asleep and didn't wake back up - that’s when Keyona was intubated.
Corey explained seeing his daughter’s x-rays and learning her left lung had collapsed. Unfortunately, complications with her right lung came soon after.
Keyona needed assistance breathing as the H1N1 virus had taken over her body. Her family told Denver7 they thought she was safe from that particular strain, as she had been vaccinated against it.
“The doctor sat down next to me and said, 'We're going to have to put her on ECMO,' and I said, 'My husband's not here, can we just wait for him,' Kristie said. “She looked me in my face and said, 'Kristie, I don't think we'll be able to keep her alive for an hour.'”
Dr. Suchitra Rao with Children’s Hospital Colorado said Keyona’s lungs had undergone a lot of stress from this infection.
“If things make a really good recovery relatively quickly, then there’s a really good outcome for her,” Dr. Rao said. “If there has been a lot of damage done to the lungs, these things can become irreversible and take a number of years to get better.”
Dr. Rao explained the flu season varies from year to year. For Colorado, the season started in October.
When asked why this strain impacted Keyona so drastically, Rao explained certain strains still have the ability to overwhelm the system, even with a flu vaccination.
Since then, 300 kids were either under observation or were admitted to the hospital for the flu. This is double the number of patients the hospital usually sees. Rao said hospitalizations are up more than double as well.
Keyona’s breathing is still being closely monitored as she remains in the PICU. While she continues to fight, her parents are also fighting for awareness.
“Keep your kids home if you know they're sick. Cause true to form, she got this from somewhere, from somebody,” Corey Richardson said.