Mom Warns Parents as Daughter Fights for Life After Rare Swine Flu Diagnosis

A 10-year-old girl in Colorado is fighting for her life after a rare swine flu diagnosis.

Keyona Richardson, 10, is in the pediatric ICU on a ventilator as she battles the H1N1 influenza virus, more commonly known as swine flu, PEOPLE reports.

The 10-year-old had begun feeling sick on Jan. 31, and after being sent home from school, her mother, Kristie Richardson, took her to a local emergency room where she was diagnosed with pneumonia, a complication from having contracted H1N1. The fifth-grader was given antibiotics and returned home, but was rushed back to the hospital later that night when her mother noticed that Keyona was having difficulty breathing.

“I was just laying in bed with her that night and noticed she was breathing really fast,” Richardson said. “Her activity level was totally fine, we were laughing and joking, but she was just breathing really fast, and I just felt like something wasn’t right.”

The fifth grader was taken to Children’s Hospital Colorado, where her left lung collapsed by the next morning, forcing ICU doctors to intubate her and place her in a medical paralysis. Her condition only worsened, though, and after her right lung collapses, the 10-year-old was placed on an EXMO (Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine.

“Had we not brought her back in, we’ve been told she probably would have died in her sleep,” she says. “When her lung collapsed, if we would have let her go to sleep, we would have probably found her in respiratory failure and probably would have never woke up.”

Keyona Richardson remains in the ICU, but her family says that her health is beginning to improve and that she has since been taken off of the EXMO machine and instead back on a ventilator.

While Keyona Richardson contracted H1N1, the predominant strain this flu season is H3N2. Acting CDC director Dr. Anne Schuchat declared this year’s flu season to be the worst since the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak.

However, new research from Canada reveals that this year’s flu vaccine is 14% less effective than originally thought, meaning that it is just 20% effective against the dominant H3N2 strain.

“That means people who were vaccinated should not consider themselves invincible for this season,” said lead researcher Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an infectious diseases expert at the BC Center for Disease Control.

Still, the CDC is urging people to get the vaccine, stating that even though the flu shot is not 100 percent effective, it can still lessen the chance that someone catches it by 10% to 60%.