Last-ditch effort saves life of teen suffering from swine flu

Fort Worth Star-TelegramOctober 17, 2009 

FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Andrea Samples knew that her daughter’s flu wasn't typical when the 15-year-old's hands and feet went numb.

Jessica Samples' flu started on Sept. 26 with a backache. As it grew worse, the high school sophomore had labored breathing and became restless. Eventually, after she was seen twice by doctors at a clinic and emergency room, she was admitted to Cook Children's Medical Center.

She had the H1N1 virus -- swine flu -- and relatives worried that she wouldn't survive.

As a last resort, doctors put her on a machine that oxygenated her blood.

Now, 16 days after entering the hospital, she's recovering and is expected to be released Sunday.

"We are so happy with how Jessica is doing," said Dr. Linda Thompson, who specializes in pediatric critical-care medicine. "I wouldn’t even recognize her. She was very sick when she came in. She had H1N1 swine flu and seemed to have an infection of the heart."

Fluid had collected around Jessica’s heart, Thompson said. She had no pulse in her arms and legs and had poor blood flow. An extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine let Jessica's heart rest so her body could fight the illness.

"Without the ECMO, our thought is that she would have died," Thompson said.

Jessica emerged from her hospital room Friday with a big grin. During a short news conference, she described how she's recovering from the illness and hopes to return to classes soon.

"I don’t remember anything at all," Jessica said. "I've been told I woke up and wrote things like, 'I want Starbucks.' " She finally got a vanilla bean frappuccino, minus the caffeine.

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