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Aurora girl beats H1N1 infection after weeks-long battle at Children's Hospital

Posted at 10:49 AM, Feb 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-19 19:50:49-05

AURORA, Colo. — A 10-year-old Aurora girl was released from Children’s Hospital Colorado Saturday, cured of a dangerous infection that killed hundreds of thousands of people during a pandemic in 2009.

Keyona Richardson spent more than two weeks in the Aurora hospital’s intensive care unit battling H1N1, more commonly known as the swine flu.

"I could barely breathe," Keyona said.

Her mother, Kristie Richardson, said Keyona walked out of the hospital with little to no damage to her lungs, which is sometimes not the case for infections like this. 

"I feel better now, and I’m glad I don’t have any tubes attached to me anymore," the young girl added.
Kristie told Denver7 her daughter is no longer reliant on breathing machines. However, Keyona was sent home with two inhalers.
Early signs of this strain of flu were seen when Keyona Richardson was sent home from school on January 31 with a 102-degree fever.
Before the Swine Flu diagnosis, a doctor told her parents that Keyona was suffering from pneumonia.
The young Aurora girl was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Children’s Hospital Colorado at midnight on February 1.

The Richardson's have since developed new concerns about cleanliness.

"For me, the major concern is her walking out that door, period," dad, Corey said. "Before, the flu to me was just sniffles. It didn't matter."

However, the seriousness of his daughter's condition changed all of that. Now, the smallest uncovered coughs bring a world of worry.

"It makes my skin crawl," Kristie said.

Their message to others, including friends and family, is simple: Cover your mouth if you cough and stay home if you're sick.

"She's ten. She almost passed away," Kristie said, in response to the ordeal her daughter survived.

Keyona relied on an ECMO. It is an advanced life-support machine that essentially did the breathing for her.

On Monday, the 10-year-old introduced Denver7 to a stuffed toad she named ECMO, after the machine that saved her life.

When asked to describe the journey, Corey said, "It was the worst roller coaster ride you could ever take with the best ending ever."
Keyona’s parents told Denver7 the 10-year-old had her flu shot.
When asked why this strain impacted Keyona so drastically, Dr. Suchitra Rao with Children’s Hospital Colorado explained certain strains still can 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.