In February of 2011, Megan Rhoads was nearly 32 weeks pregnant with her second child when she went to the doctor for what she thought was a cold. “I kept telling them I couldn’t breathe,” said Megan.
She was given an inhaler and sent home. “The doctors just thought I had a cold but I really felt worse than that. I knew something was wrong,” Megan said.
Just days later Rhoads was taken to the Daviess Community Hospital emergency room and was fighting for her life.
“When she got to the emergency room, she was not doing well at all. They had given Megan oxygen but she just wasn’t breathing well at all,” said Dave Rhoads, Megan’s father.
Shortly after arriving at the emergency room, DCH staff made the call to lifeline Megan to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville if they were able to stabilize her condition.
Doctors at Deaconess informed Megan’s family that the best chance of saving either Megan’s or her unborn child’s life, was to deliver her baby now.
Kian was born via C-section shortly after. He weighed about four pounds.
“For several days Megan was in one part of the hospital and Kian was in another,” said Glenda Davis, Megan’s mother. “It was hard and we just didn’t really know what to do.”
By the next week, doctors had determined that Megan had H1N1-type influenza. H1N1 caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009 but after then, most individuals never gave it a second thought. H1N1 is now included in all seasonal flu vaccines.
“I had been tested for H1N1 a couple of times but the tests came back negative,” said Megan. “I had symptoms that were pretty much typically of the flu but I had been getting headaches as well.”
After a few days, her condition was getting worse. “They had tried several things but she just wasn’t getting any better,” said Dave.
Megan’s best shot was to be put in a RotoPron bed. The bed, which was brought to the Evansville hospital from a facility in Kentucky, rotates patients and helps prevent lung damage from ventilators.
“Part of the reason she was in the bed was also to keep her lungs going,” said her mother. “Her lungs were like concrete.”
All her family could see of her was her auburn hair poking out from the top of the machine.
Four days later, after watching Megan, who was in a medically induced coma, spin 24/7 in the bed, doctors called her family in.
“The doctor wanted to talk the family,” said Dave. “He told us they had done all they could do for her and that she probably wouldn’t make it until the next Friday.”
The family needed a miracle. “We prayed. We prayed all the time that God would spare her because she had little ones to take care of,” said Pat.
Surprisingly, when that Friday came around, Megan was still hanging on. Her family kept praying and after 27 days, the doctors were shocked she was still with them.
“They just couldn’t believe she was still with us,” said Glenda. “It was a miracle.”
Megan’s family said that every time the hospital staff had to put in a new tube, they were afraid of the possibility of doing more harm than good. “They were afraid, because they had to be so careful with her, that she wouldn’t make it through the procedures, “ said Pat.
On that 27th day, doctors decided to slowly try to bring Megan out of her coma. “They were really concerned with keeping her calm and the doctors just really weren’t sure how she was going to be after coming out of the coma,” said Dave.
The doctors had told Megan’s family that if she came out of the coma, she would probably be on oxygen the rest of her life.
For the first several days, Megan was totally unresponsive. But one day, as her father and his friend were praying by her side, she opened her eyes. “She looked straight at us both and the doctor’s just couldn’t believe it,” he said.
When Megan came to, she said she was afraid to hold her son. “She didn’t want to hold him, and at the time, it was really upsetting to us,” said Glenda. “But now I realize, she was afraid. She was afraid she couldn’t take care of him.”
Because she had been in a coma for nearly a month, Megan had lost all of her muscle tone in her arms and legs.
She spent almost a month in a rehabilitation center where she had to learn to walk all over again.
“It was hard,” said Megan. “But I wanted out of there. I wanted to be home with my kids.”
Now, nearly three years later Megan has made a nearly complete recovery. “There are a few things I have trouble remembering sometimes and my family has told me about everything that happened when I was in a coma and in the hospital,” said Megan.
In fact, throughout Megan’s miraculous journey, her family kept a journal detailing every procedure done, every change in her condition and their thoughts as she fought for her life.
As a result of Megan’s H1N1 struggle, her low oxygen levels left Kian without the oxygen he needed long enough to cause some birth defects. “Kian has cerebral palsy,” said Megan. She said doctors are unsure how much developmental progress he will make. “They just aren’t sure right now on how much he has been affected but I have hope. I believe he will walk one day and be able to play.”
Caring for Kian is a full-time round the clock job for Megan and her family. “But he’s almost always smiling,” she said. “And it’s really helped his brother, Kobe, be more accepting of people. He’s so proud to be Kian’s brother.”
Megan’s doctor had offered her the option of getting the flu vaccine but she chose to opt out. “I had never got the flu shot before and I just didn’t think it was important at the time,” said Megan.
While no one knows for sure, Megan said that doctors as well as she and her family now believe her case wouldn’t not have been so profound had she taken the vaccine.
“Our mission is to tell people, especially pregnant women, how important it is to get that flu shot. You never know what could happen,” said Dave.
The Centers for Disease Control website said that pregnant women are more likely to become severely ill from the flu due to changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy. Pregnant women also have a greater chance of serious problems such as premature labor and delivery for their unborn babies.
Current flu vaccines protect not only the mother but their unborn baby and the baby after birth.
The CDC site also said that the flu vaccine will not cause any harm to the baby and that even breastfeeding mother’s should be vaccinated. Preventing the flu in the mother is very important since children under the age of six months cannot be vaccinated.