'I've Never Felt So Scared': The Faces of H1N1

Despite taking medication religiously, she went downhill fast: her lungs filled with fluid, her breathing became troubled, her toes and fingers went cold, her temperature dangerously high.

At this point, Yanira Silva said Grace's temperature had spiked yet again. "Grace had a very, very high fever. 104.4. I gave her medication."

After yet another trip to the emergency room, her mother demanded, and the hospital agreed to have Grace transferred to a bigger facility, Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., 130 miles away.

The hospital where Grace was initially treated said in a statement yesterday that she did not show her more severe symptoms until her very last visit there.

Prayers Around the Clock

That night, a Medevac helicopter made the emergency trip. A respiratory test confirmed the diagnosis that doctors suspected: H1N1.

"She has severe pneumonia. She has an underlying problem with asthma so that makes her a little more susceptible to the more severe disease," said Dr. Christopher Harrison, director of the Infectious Disease Laboratory at Children's Mercy.

Mother Prays for Recovery

For the last two weeks, Grace's mother has stayed at her bedside, nearly around the clock, praying for her recovery, with the hospital chaplain and her daughter's nurse, Angela.

Last week, the Army granted Grace's father leave from the war in Iraq to join the battle his daughter faced in Missouri.

"That's the worst feeling that you can feel," he said. "Since I was there, I've never felt so scared about anything."

Grace's 8-year-old twin sister Faithsy, was also infected, but did not get seriously ill. Most of the children in intensive care have underlying medical problems and exhibit severe symptoms.

"If you have anything that makes you think that you've got pneumonia," said Harrison. "So, if you start breathing faster than usual, you can't get your breath, a cough that won't stop. ... And children can look anxious when they're anxious about their breathing. That's something you need to go in and see about right away."

'Keep a Close Eye on Your Children'

Across the country, emergency rooms and ICU's are already inundated.

"Currently we may have up to six patients in our 16 bed ICU," said Natale. "My fear is that most of my units beds will be filled with H1N1 patients."

After his near death experience, Benjamin's prognosis is good. His mother said she's learned a valuable lesson along the way.

"Please do not think that this can't happen to your child," she said. "Keep a close eye on your children. When they have a cold, when they have a temperature, please keep a closer eye on them. If I was not keeping a closer eye on Benjamin, he would be dead right now."

Grace is getting better, too -- fighting those tubes, squeezing her mother's hand and trying to breathe on her own. For now, these children are winning the battle that is overcoming so many, who are so young.

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