Skeptical of H1N1? The risks are real: A pregnant woman struck with swine flu suffered five weeks in a coma -- and lost her baby.
Vivian Manning-Schaffel: Much has been written about the H1N1 virus. Many think it's the media darling of illnesses, that the hype is what's got so many of us wiping and disinfecting ourselves and treating our kids like the mini-petri dishes they are.
But for high-risk folks, like young babies and pregnant women, the outcome of H1N1 can be tragic. The New York Times just ran a piece about 27-year-old Aubrey Opdyke, a pregnant South Florida woman who nearly died from "The Swine" and was forced to deliver her daughter prematurely at 27 weeks. She lived all of seven minutes.
The article describes her suffering as formidable: "In the four months she was hospitalized, she spent five weeks in a coma, suffered six collapsed lungs and a near-fatal seizure. High-pressure ventilation blew her up like a molten balloon until 'she looked like she weighed 400 pounds,'" her husband, Bryan, said, and she has stretch marks from her neck to her ankles. Her muscles and lungs are still so weak that she uses a walker.
"While hospitalized, she missed seeing her 4-year-old daughter, Hope, learn to swim and start pre-school.
"And, most important, she lost her baby. Parker Christine Opdyke, almost 27 weeks in the womb, was delivered by emergency Caesarean section on July 18, when her fetal heart rate plummeted during Ms. Opdyke's third lung collapse. Her airways were too blocked to let a breathing tube in, possibly a side effect of the drugs saving her mother."
Scared yet? Here's more from the article:
"On Oct. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 100 pregnant women had been in intensive care with swine flu and 28 had died. That is a tiny fraction of what are believed to have been millions of cases in the country. But it is the best argument, federal officials say, for the drawn-out, expensive effort to make a swine flu vaccine.
"Pregnant women are particularly susceptible because they are in the younger age group most likely to catch this new virus, while those over 50 who have had more flus rarely catch it. Moreover, pregnancy suppresses the immune system to protect the fetus, and the growing baby makes it harder for a mother to clear her lungs."
I'm no stranger to "The Swine." Before there was a vaccine, my school-aged kid contracted what his doctors thought was H1N1 from a classmate (New York was out of tests), and after a week of fever and mild malaise, he was good to go on with his life unscathed. For many adults who aren't pregs and older kids without overhanging health risks, this will likely be the case.
But if I were pregs, I'd be hightailing it to my doc for a dose. Especially after reading this article.
Do any of you preggos plan on getting the H1N1 shot when it becomes available?
|Vivian Manning-Schaffel has written for Babble, Parenting, The Advocate, The New York Post, Business Week and a variety of other publications and lives and works in the heart of breeder Brooklyn with her husband and two kids. She authors two pop culture blogs: The Mad Mom and A Hag Supreme, and is on the web at vivianmanningschaffel.com.|