A 10-year-old girl is fighting for her life after a swine flu diagnosis led to pneumonia, causing one lung to collapse and the other to fail.
Keyona Richardson, of Aurora, Colorado, fell ill with a mild cough and fever last Wednesday and a doctor diagnosed the cheerleader with pneumonia that day.
The fifth-grader was sent home on medication but later that night her breathing was labored and she was rushed to the emergency room where she tested positive for swine flu.
Now Keyona is in the intensive care unit on ventilators to save her from the deadly flu virus which has killed more than 53 children this season in the US.
Keyona was diagnosed with the H1N1 strain of the virus, also known as the swine flu, which caused a global pandemic in 2009, killing about 200,000 people.
The strain is not as common as the dominant H3N2 strain that has been ravaging the nation.
However, H1N1 and B viruses just recently began to emerge this flu season and have reportedly killed children.
While this year’s flu vaccine is 34 percent effective against the H3N2 strain, the CDC said it offers more protection against the H1N1 strain and B viruses.
Health officials urge everyone to get the shot and say it is not too late with two months of flu season left.
Keyona received her flu shot just weeks before falling ill with the virus last week.
When she first showed symptoms she was sent home from school and taken by her mother Kristie to an emergency room where Keyona was diagnosed with pneumonia, a complication from the flu.
When she went home that night, Kristie noticed her daughter breathing unusually fast and brought her back to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Her left lung collapsed the next morning.
‘Had we not brought her back in, we’ve been told she probably would have died in her sleep,’ Kristie told PEOPLE.
‘When her lung collapsed, if we would have let her go to sleep, we would have probably found her in respiratory failure and probably would have never woke up,’ she added.
Keyona was intubated and placed in a medical paralysis where she appeared to be stable until her other lung began failing causing her oxygen to plummet.
Doctors moved quickly and placed her on an EXMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) life support machine to take the place of her failed lungs.
Kristie said doctors pounded on her daughter’s chest to clear thick fluid that had built up in Keyona’s lungs.
‘Corey (her father) and I both sat there literally bawling our eyes out holding each other and watching our daughter,’ she says. ‘At that point, she was just lifeless.’
Keyona has remained in stable condition and is showing signs of improvement.
Kristie wrote on a fundraising page Meal Train on Tuesday: ‘She opened her eyes many times, nodded to questions and definitely let her little personality shine thru!’
This year’s flu is on track to becoming one of the worst in recent history and already has the highest rate of hospitalizations than any other year.
On Friday, Dr Dan Jernigan, director of the CDC’s Influenza Division, said that this is an unusual pattern for the flu as health officials expected activity to have already reached its peak at this time – but it continues to get worse.
The virus is widespread in 48 states, including Colorado, after Oregon dropped down to regional level to meet Hawaii.
Health officials are warning everyone to take extra precaution to prevent the spread of the flu by washing your hands regularly and avoiding contact with everyone.
People can harbor the flu virus whether they look ill or not, therefore doctors urge everyone to be vigilant.
‘Supporting one’s immune system with good rest and adequate hydration may help reduce the severity of symptoms,’ Dr Brian Secemsky, an internist at One Medical in San Francisco, told Daily Mail Online.
‘Washing hands often, wearing masks, and staying home from work during periods of fever can help reduce the transmission of the virus,’ he added.