We Survived H1N1

Two families with very different H1N1 experiences -- one typical, one traumatic -- share their stories.

Your Basic Bout

Amy and Hallie

Courtesy of Amy Haim

Yes, we survived -- but what a mess. My baby, Jillian, was too young to get the H1N1 vaccine, but at her 3-month appointment, my pediatrician pursuaded me to get my 4-year-old, Hallie, and myself vaccinated. I have to admit, it made me nervous: The doctor stressed how rough H1N1 virus is on babies, so I made the appointment. Unfortunately, I was too late.

By the next day, Hallie had H1N1 -- and it was the saddest thing I've ever seen. I remember her crying and saying, "My hair hurts." Her breathing was heavy, and for about four days her fever was constantly spiking and dropping. My husband and Jillian stayed at my in-laws' house. My glands swelled up and I could feel my body fighting, but thankfully I never got sick and was able to care for Hallie -- I'm guessing the vaccination prevented me from catching the virus from Hallie. After a week of quarantine, my husband and baby moved back home. I scrubbed the house from top to bottom, and even now I'm crazy about antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer. I don't want to go down that road again.

-Amy Haim; mother of two, Los Angeles

A Worst-Case Scenario

Elisabeth and Natalie

Courtesy of Elisabeth Fish

My 5-year-old daughter, Natalie, has a disorder called acquired hemolytic anemia -- her own body attacks her red blood cells. As a result it's dangerous for Natalie to get vaccines, so when the H1N1 virus began spreading October 2009, we pulled her out of kindergarten and didn't take her anywhere; we didn't let other kids come to the house; we even stayed in the house to trick-or-treat for Halloween.

A couple of days after Halloween, Natalie developed a really bad cough. It turned into pneumonia almost overnight. She had a high fever and was up all night coughing and vomiting. She was in so much pain and even over-the-counter medicine couldn't bring her fever down. We called her specialist and he sent us straight to the intensive care unit (ICU), where Natalie was diagnosed with H1N1 flu and severe pneumonia. She was having so much trouble getting oxygen that the doctors eventually put her on a ventilator and started pumping her body full of medication -- including narcotics, steroids, and the antiviral Tamiflu.

She seemed to be getting better, but, when the ICU doctors began to wean her off medicine, she started having seizures. Her brain was swelling and bleeding. Her physicians still aren't sure exactly what happened. They speculate the brain swelling and bleeding could have been caused by high blood pressure or withdrawal from the pain medications, the H1N1 virus spreading to her brain, or a reaction to the Tamiflu (seizures are a reported side effect).

When Natalie finally woke up, she couldn't see, talk, or walk. She lost most of her memories of her life before the hospital and had to be potty-trained again. She didn't even remember me. We were in the hospital for a total of three weeks: By the time we left the hospital, Natalie recognized me and could speak a little, but still hadn't regained her ability to walk. Natalie has been seeing specialists ever since -- she can walk now, her speech is back to normal, and she gets better every day, but it's a miracle she's alive.

-Elisabeth Fish; mother of four, Pleasant Grove, Utah

Originally published in the November 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment