Keshia and Presley Cramer, Eugene, Oregon
Emergency cesarean section due to H1N1 and double pneumonia
In the summer of 2009, 25 weeks pregnant and six days away from earning her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon, 22-year-old Keshia Cramer began to feel very sick.
It started with a high fever and body aches. Doctors initially thought she had a kidney infection and sent her home with antibiotics. When the fever didn’t break and the body aches caused her to have trouble walking and sitting, Keshia went to the Emergency Room at Sacred Heart Medical Center for help.
After running tests, the physician delivered the devastating news. Keshia had double pneumonia caused by the H1N1 flu virus. She was immediately admitted to Sacred Heart at RiverBend. Within 48 hours, she was in a coma in the intensive care unit (ICU), hooked up to a ventilator to help her breathe.
Keshia Cramer was critically ill, and her condition was getting worse.
Two days into her ICU stay, doctors decided it was time to deliver Keshia’s 25-week old baby girl. PeaceHealth Medical Group Ob-Gyn Dr. Paul Qualtere-Burcher came to the ICU to perform the c-section; it was only the second time Dr. Qualtere-Burcher had performed a c-section outside of an operating room.
As nurses lowered her bed to perform the c-section, Keshia’s vital signs began dipping. Dr. Qualtere-Burcher quickly decided the c-section would have to be done with Keshia sitting upright. This unique variation of a traditional c-section was Dr. Qualtere-Burcher’s first, and it was successful.
Keshia’s daughter, Presley, was born just before midnight weighing 2 pounds, 1 ounce, and measuring just 13 inches long. She was immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for care.
Just as Presley was entering the world, doctors were telling Keshia’s husband and parents that it was time to say good-bye. The pneumonia was winning the battle.
“My husband says it was the best and worst night of his life. He got to meet his newborn baby, but then was told that his wife probably wouldn’t survive,” Keshia says.
Turns out, Keshia wasn’t ready to say goodbye. The amazing story of her recovery was just beginning. She surprised doctors, nurses and her family by slowly starting to improve. She was in a coma for a month, waking up off-and-on during her ICU stay and gazing at photos of her tiny baby proudly displayed around her room.
“I knew I had to get better because I had to take care of my daughter,” explains Keshia.
She finally emerged from the coma for good a month after her ordeal began. Her muscles were so weak that she had trouble holding her head up. During the first few days, Keshia started learning how to speak and write again. When she was strong enough, she was taken to meet her daughter, Presley, now a one month old, in the NICU.
“The first thing I said was ‘She’s so tiny’ and then I noticed, ‘She has hair!’”
Presley would stay in the NICU for a total of 76 days. Keshia would be going home sooner. She was moved to a medical floor in the hospital for a few days to make sure she was ready to go home, and she was.
Six weeks after she came to the ER with a fever and body aches, Keshia was discharged from the hospital, having survived a life-threatening illness.
“It’s crazy to think that I am alive,” she says, knowing that H1N1 has claimed the lives of an abnormally high percentage of pregnant women.
She credits her strong family support system and the team of nurses and physicians at Sacred Heart for helping her recover, including lung specialist Dr. Khuram Ameen.
“He saved my life. He’s an amazing doctor,” Keshia says. “I might have died if I was in a different hospital.”
After her experience at Sacred Heart, Keshia feels that she has a new, extended family of nurses at the hospital.
“The ICU nurses brought Presley little baby outfits and gave me a cake when I moved out of ICU. I still go to visit the nurses and talk to some of them on the phone,” Keshia says.
While her lungs remain partially damaged and she has some residual pain in her joints, Keshia has an optimistic view of her future, which still includes plans to finish her degree at UO.
“I have no reason to be sad about my experience. I feel that I’m lucky to be here,” she says.
And Keshia feels blessed to have a healthy baby, too. She says, “I look at Presley now and think, ‘She’s a miracle.’”