After spending six weeks in an induced, paralyzing coma, Kristy Dufrene-McCully and her unborn baby are finally home.
The 25-year-old expectant mother, who suffered from a life-threatening respiratory disease called acute respiratory distress syndrome in late June, has lived in a coma for nearly two months on a respirator to give her lungs time to heal.
Now, she is awake.
“Kristy came home on Sept. 18 and is getting better every day,” said Charlotte Dufrene, Dufrene-McCully’s mother. “But she’s not out of the woods yet.”
Two days after returning home, Dufrene-McCully’s parents found themselves back in the emergency room. Their daughter was experiencing nausea and had trouble breathing.
“Kristy’s lungs are still really weak and she’s had trouble keeping food down,” Dufrene said. “We’ve had to administer intravenous antibiotics since she’s been home, but she’s off of them now.”
Dufrene-McCully is now entering the third trimester of her pregnancy and has been advised by her doctors to remain indoors.
“Because her lungs and immune system are vulnerable, Kristy has to stay mostly indoors and away from any chemicals and germs,” added Dufrene. “She has also lost a lot of weight.
“She doesn’t look like herself.”
In addition to continuous breathing problems, Dufrene-McCully’s body is beginning to experience other problems. She now has difficulties with her gall bladder, has kidney stones and has developed a condition known as “drop foot,” which has forced her to begin using a walker and wear a special brace.
“Kristy’s been through so much, but she keeps a positive attitude,” Dufrene said. “We’ve had great support from all of our family and friends and from the community.”
Originally, Dufrene-McCully displayed the usual symptoms of bacterial pneumonia – coughing, fever, shortness of breath and chest pain. But when her vital signs dropped below normal levels, doctors induced a coma and decided against a lung biopsy, concluding that she was too weak to go through that operation.
Next came the second diagnosis – acute respiratory distress syndrome, medically known as ARDS.
According to her doctors, it will take nearly three years for Dufrene-McCully’s body to fully recuperate from ARDS and she still may experience breathing problems after that.
“We’re thankful that she has made it this far,” Dufrene said. “She is one of the only women her age who has been pregnant and has survived.”
Dufrene-McCully’s due date is Jan. 11, 2010. And while her family is looking forward to a healthy delivery, they are also prepared for any bumps along the road.
“The doctors just performed an ultrasound and say that the baby looks OK, but we really won’t know what effects the coma and ARDS have had on it until after the birth,” Dufrene said.
For more information on ARDS, visit www.ardsusa.org.