Back from the brink: 9-year-old girl spends month in a coma with swine flu

After 47 days in the hospital due to the H1N1 flu, 9-year-old Hayli Murphy is back to enjoying camp fires with her Mother Julie Murphy, other family members and friends. Murphy spent 28 days on life support in a medically induced coma as she battled the flu. Michel Fortier/Staff

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER

After 47 days in the hospital due to the H1N1 flu, 9-year-old Hayli Murphy is back to enjoying camp fires with her Mother Julie Murphy, other family members and friends. Murphy spent 28 days on life support in a medically induced coma as she battled the flu. Michel Fortier/Staff

Life is somewhat back to normal for 9-year-old Hayli Murphy who's back to being a kid again. 'Her coming home was just the greatest day,' said Julie Murphy, Hayli's mother. Michel Fortier/Staff

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER

Life is somewhat back to normal for 9-year-old Hayli Murphy who's back to being a kid again. "Her coming home was just the greatest day," said Julie Murphy, Hayli's mother. Michel Fortier/Staff

The family has set up the Hayli A. Murphy Fund at Fifth-Third Bank, Murphy said, with all the funds going to Hayli’s ongoing medical bills.

— A bright, vivacious blonde ball of energy that loves fishing and The Judds.

That’s how Julie Murphy describes her youngest daughter, Hayli.

A swine flu survivor who spent more than four weeks in a coma, however, was just not a description she thought she’d ever apply to the 9-year-old.

“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” Murphy said. “This can happen to a healthy, beautiful child.”

A parent’s nightmare

The words swine flu were not uttered, diagnosed or even thought of when Hayli came down with a 103 fever on Sept. 13.

“We were visiting grandma for a little while and she (Hayli) was like ‘I don’t feel good,’” Murphy said.

Murphy initially attributed Hayli’s symptoms to a very active weekend, staying up late with friends. Murphy said she went through a parent’s normal routine when a child is under the weather — giving her some over-the-counter medication to reduce the fever and calling Hayli’s pediatrician. She spent most of the next day fighting to keep Hayli’s increasing fever in check.

“It wouldn’t stay down, even with Motrin and Tylenol every three hours,” she recalled.

Yet, it would be three days before she would be diagnosed with swine flu.

The first of several trips to the emergency room, sent Hayli home with medical personnel saying she only had one of several flu viruses going around. A 104 temperature the next day sent Hayli back to the hospital, only to be sent home again with a diagnosis of pneumonia and some antibiotics to fight the infection.

Two days after the initial emergency room visit, Hayli’s temperature skyrocketed to 105.3. Murphy’s maternal instincts kicked in and she brought her back to the hospital without even consulting anyone.

“I had to literally lift her off the couch, take her out, put her in the car and put her in a wheelchair when we got to the hospital because she couldn’t move,” Murphy said.

Things progressed quickly, and not positively, after Hayli was admitted to the intensive care unit at The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida in HealthPark. Doctors put her on a ventilator.

“It was quite traumatic,” Murphy said.

Yet, the reality of what her daughter was facing didn’t hit Murphy until doctors said Hayli had Influenza type A and that 99 percent of the time a patient gets this diagnosis it turns out to be H1N1.

“I was like, ‘What?’” Murphy said.

Growing trend

The 37-year-old mother admittedly never worried about swine flu, even when the outbreak made national headlines.

“I ignored it just like I ignored the bird flu and all the other flus we’ve had over the last few years,” Murphy said.

But as word got around of who was falling prey to the virus, Murphy said she became more concerned.

“This one doesn’t want to mess with the older people, just 30 and under,” she said. “That’s scary.”

Of the 1,082 confirmed cases of swine flu in Florida as of last week, the Florida Department of Health has concluded that the most affected age groups are those under the age of 25. As of Nov. 17 there have been 167 confirmed deaths caused by swine flu.

From Aug. 30 to Oct. 10, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention received notification of 4,958 laboratory-confirmed H1N1 hospitalizations and 292 swine flu related deaths. As of Nov. 17, there have been 31 confirmed cases of H1N1 in Lee County, with five deaths from the virus and its complications. Collier County has had four confirmed cases of H1N1 and no deaths.

“While most cases of H1N1 swine flu are mild, there are exceptions,” said Lee County Health Department director Dr. Judith A. Hartner in a written statement.

Local, state and federal health officials have warned that even young, healthy people like Hayli can suffer serious consequences when infected with H1N1 that can lead to severe sickness and even death in some cases. Swine flu slowly made its way closer to the Murphy’s life, when one of Hayli’s classmates and a member of her Girl Scout Troop caught the bug.

“I had heard it was going around, but I would have never imagined that it would end up like this,” said Murphy, noting that neither of Hayli’s friends had such extreme cases.

Darkness before light

After a week in the hospital, chest X-ray’s showed that Hayli’s lung capacity was so diminished that doctor’s had to put her on a high-frequency oscillatory ventilation — which required them in essence to induce a coma to save her life. The oscillatory ventilation unit is a rapid breathing device that gave Hayli roughly 300 breaths a minute.

“They did not let her breathe on her own for at least 28 days,” said Murphy. “They had to totally knock her out, or she was going to fight it.”

Even with her youngest unconscious and oblivious to her condition, Murphy said the thought of what would have happened if she didn’t bring Hayli to the hospital for a third time scared her most.

“Her breathing got to erratic so fast, and her lungs got so inflamed and so swollen so fast that her heart or her lungs would have given out,” Murphy said.

For Hayli, the most vivid memories of the ordeal began when she came out of the medically induced coma near the end of October.

“I woke up and I saw my feet were painted,” said Hayli with a laugh. “I was like ‘Who painted my toes?’”

Hayli’s older sister, Harli, explained her mom needed something to do while the youngster slept.

With Hayli awake, Murphy said the doctors and nurses began her rehabilitation, so by the time Halloween rolled around Hayli was up and walking with the help of a walker. Yet her return home was going to be a bit bumpy.

The first time Hayli went home on Nov. 4, she had to be wheeled out of the hospital. Regardless, Hayli saw it as a victory.

“I was excited,” she said with wide grin.

The family’s trip back to San Carlos Park was short lived. Hayli was back in the hospital five days later due to high blood pressure — one of the side effects patients, who have been placed on oscillatory ventilation, can develop.

Three days later, with the Sarasota Clowns visiting the hospital, Hayli found out she could go home again. She called her mom with the good news.

“She said ‘Mom I’m done playing with the clowns, but I got some good news.’” Murphy said “The doctor said we can go home.’”

And much to her relief she walked out of the hospital on her own.

Silver lining

The bills are mounting but Hayli is getting better, said Murphy who had to take a leave-of-absence from her job as a hair stylist during the ordeal.

Yet her daughter is only halfway back to her energetic self, she said, and is still on several medications including one to control her hyper-tension.

“She’s quick on the fast movement, but it doesn’t last long,” Murphy said “It comes in bursts.”

This past week, Hayli started catching up with school work, thanks to Lee County Public School’s Hospital Homebound program. She expects to be back at San Carlos Park Elementary after Christmas. Even her friends now understand the severity of the swine flu.

“I was very scared because people said she might die,” her friend William Bidwell, 9, said, adding that he was afraid that he might get it too.

If any good came out of her daughter’s ordeal, Murphy said, it is that Hayli’s case is now being used to help others.

“She was a case study for so many interns it was unbelievable,” said Murphy, who described her youngest daughter as a normal healthy child, who goes to her yearly check-up and maybe gets an occasional ear-nose-throat cold from swimming too much. “The doctors kept telling me ‘We’re basing our cases now on what we’ve done with her.’”

Murphy has also come away with some gems of wisdom for parents.

The first is get your kids vaccinated.

“I’ve never recommended a flu shot in my life, but I would definitely get the H1N1 flu shot,” Murphy said. “The flu shot not the spray, because the nasal spray is a live virus.”

The second and most important lesson, Murphy said is to trust your instincts.

“Watch your kids, because it happens overnight,” she said. “Don’t second guess your gut. Most parents have that. So even though the doctor may say ‘no, no,’ if your gut says something is wrong then get a second or third opinion.”

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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