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H1N1 flu hits close to home

By Staff | Aug 3, 2009

Blue Earth residents Rahn and Shelly Greimann have learned firsthand how dangerous the H1N1 flu can be.

Their daughter Brianna’s entire family was hit with the so-called ‘swine flu’ earlier in July. And for the Greimann’s 3-year-old granddaughter, Clarine, it became a life-and-death situation.

Dave and Brianna Greer live in Wisconsin with their three children.

Dave was the first to exhibit the flu symptoms. The other family members followed along — with all of them recovering without hospitalization.

All except Clarine.

She has been hospitalized for more than two weeks, and will probably be in the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Family Children’s Hospital for at least another week.

Her symptoms included coughing, not eating or drinking, being lethargic and lack of breath.

“She became worse and worse,” Shelly Greimann says. “At first they thought it was pneumonia, but antibiotics didn’t work.”

As Clarine’s condition worsened, doctors eventually had to put her on a ventilator, hook her up to IVs, use a feeding tube, give her a blood transfusion and finally placed her under heavy sedation.

“She was coughing so violently and breathing so heavily they feared she could crash – her heart could stop,” Greimann says. “That is why they sedated her with a paralytic medicine, even though they really didn’t want to.”

Greimann says doctors were just trying to keep her stable while her body fought off the H1N1 virus. There is no medicine to give her, Greimann adds.“That is really all they can do,” she says. “Just keep her alive while she fights it. Her white blood cell count was too low to fight the infection, which is why they gave her the blood transfusion.”

Then on Wednesday, July 22, Clarine’s vital signs were going wildly up and down. Mainly down.

Her father, Dave, wrote this message on the CaringBridge web site that day:

“We almost lost Clarine a few minutes ago,” he wrote. “She seems to have stabilized, but for the first time we were looking death square in the face and wondering if this was it for our little girl. We are not ready to lose her, but we know that her life is in the hands of our heavenly Father.”

Greimann says that while Clarine was sedated, nurses constantly checked her for a multitude of items – from oxygen levels in the blood, gas levels, temperature, fluids in the lungs, etc.

Now last Wednesday, doctors backed off on the sedative, and removed the ventilator.

“It was great to have our little girl back,” Greimann says. “It was so very, very scary for a while.”

She also says the family has been amazed at the outpouring of concern they have received. There have been numerous cards, gifts and calls – as well as messages left on the CaringBridge web site.

“So many people have said they are praying for Clarine, and we could actually feel that power of prayer,” Greimann says. “People’s love and concern has been amazing.”

If you want to send a message, or read about Clarine’s progress, go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/clarine