A novel approach to treating the H1N1 virus saved Danielle Abraham’s life. “What would my story have been if I didn’t have Cleveland Clinic?” she asks.
>> In November 2009, after seven long weeks, Danielle Abraham awoke from a coma. Her husband, Joe, was by her side.
“We’re not in Buffalo,” he said, noting her confusion. “We’re in Cleveland.”
In critical condition, Danielle had been airlifted a few weeks earlier to Cleveland Clinic from a New York hospital, where she’d been a patient for two months. Her lungs were under attack by the H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu.
Intensive care physicians at Cleveland Clinic immediately placed her on respirator support. But soon, a badly damaged lung began leaking air into her chest cavity, putting her life at risk. Determining that standard treatment wouldn’t be enough, Sudish Murthy, MD, PhD, a surgeon in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, and his team took a new approach: They collapsed her chest lining onto her lung to block the leak.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” says Dr. Murthy. “This was a novel therapy we’d considered for other patients, but for Danielle, it was her only option. It was kind of like putting a finger in the hole of a dike.”
During the next several weeks, the hole gradually repaired itself, her infection responded to antibiotics and she recovered. Danielle, a new mother, was beyond eager to reunite with her baby daughter. She soon got her wish.
“Finding out I could go home was like winning the lottery,” Danielle says. “I just needed to see Fiona. She was really my motivation to get better. She was so little, and she still needed her momma.”
Life Is Good
>> Today, Danielle is doing great. To show their gratitude for her good health, Danielle’s family makes a gift every Christmas to Cleveland Clinic.
“It’s a small way to give back to the hospital that saved my life. Maybe it can help another young mom, who’s hoping to get home to her child, too,” says Danielle, adding: “What would my story have been if I didn’t have Cleveland Clinic? It would’ve had a different ending. When I left Buffalo, there wasn’t a lot of hope for me.
“For that reason, I encourage everyone at Cleveland Clinic to keep doing what they’re doing — because there are more people like me out there who need them.”