Facts, not Fantasy

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vaccine Times: Flu "fatigue"

KALAMAZOO — The Welch family of Comstock Township is spending this Thanksgiving together, and that situation, they agree, is really something to be thankful for.

Last Thanksgiving Day, Amie Welch was sitting at her daughter Cailey’s bedside in Bronson Methodist Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Welch had just been released from the hospital herself, having spent a month on a ventilator, but Cailey, then 10 years old and admitted just a day after her mother, was far sicker.
It wasn’t some exotic disease that laid both mother and daughter so low. It was the flu.

At times during her six-month hospital stay, Cailey’s survival was in doubt. “Several times, sitting in her room, we were watching them lose her,” Welch said.

Cailey was on a ventilator for months, and the high air pressure needed to keep her alive did serious damage to her lungs, her mother said. “Her lungs will be always be scarred from that,” Welch said.

Cailey, who turned 11 in January, still requires oxygen 12 to 14 hours a day, her mother said, and it’s administered through her nose. “We don’t go anywhere without it,” Welch said.

Cailey also has had “surgery after surgery” to remove tissue that had built up as a result of a tracheotomy she received in the hospital, her mother said. The tissue has to be removed before the tracheostomy stoma can be closed.

Cailey has not been able to return to school at Kalamazoo’s Edison Environmental Science Academy, where she would have been in sixth grade. Instead, she is schooled through a program for homebound students run by the Kalamazoo Regional Educational and Service Agency (KRESA).

Amie Welch, 34, has suffered permanent lung damage, too, although Cailey’s is much worse, she said. “I have a little bit of scar tissue that will always be there,” she said. Its impact is that she becomes winded very easily.

Because of their experiences, the Welches have been working with the American Lung Association to spread the word about the importance of getting flu shots. Amie Welch said she agreed to share their story because “if anything good could come out of what we had to go through, we want that to happen.”

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