Monday 16 July 2018

'I thought I would be burying her,' claims mother of swine flu girl (3)

Serena Kelly and her three-year-old daughter Emma, who had to be flown to Stockholm for life-saving treatment. Photo: Frank McGrath
Serena Kelly and her three-year-old daughter Emma, who had to be flown to Stockholm for life-saving treatment. Photo: Frank McGrath
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

A three-year-old Irish girl who contracted swine flu was forced to travel to Sweden for life-saving treatment because of a shortage of resources in Ireland.

Emma Kelly was given no chance of survival unless she underwent specialised treatment.

Crumlin Children's Hospital has a specialised machine required to externally oxygenate red blood cells and remove carbon dioxide, but it can not be used on respiratory patients.

Emma was born without a fully-formed oesophagus and has experienced health issues, but she was well when she was struck down with the life-threatening H1N1 virus at the start of last month.

Her brother, Stephen, had been suffering from tonsillitis and Emma became ill on Saturday, February 6.

"She had a temperature and her breathing was very laboured, so we brought her to the GP and he gave her an antibiotic," said Emma's mother, Serena Kelly.

Emma showed signs of recovery on Monday, but by Tuesday her condition had deteriorated and she was taken to Crumlin.


"They didn't even put us into the waiting room," said Ms Kelly, adding that Emma was taken immediately for an x-ray and diagnosed with double pneumonia.

"She really just slept and the nurse said, 'You know, Emma is very sick'. They moved her to beside the nurses' station."

On the Thursday evening, Emma was taken to see a respiratory specialist, who said she had swine flu and had to go into intensive care.

"In my mind, that was it. I was ready to bury her," Ms Kelly said. "The only news you ever hear is that people die from H1N1."

Doctors told Ms Kelly that Emma would die if she did not receive the oxygenation treatment, but even then her chances of survival were only 50pc.

The family were told Emma would have to be sent to Sweden in a special aircraft, but Ms Kelly and her brother, Kildare senior inter-county footballer Rob Kelly, had to book private flights as they could not travel with her.

"That was the cruellest part. They were sending her to Sweden and I didn't even know if she was going to be alive when she arrived," said Ms Kelly.

Emma spent eight days in the world-renowned Karolinska Institute in Stockholm where doctors were amazed at her progress.

She is now home in Straffan, Co Kildare, where she is making a recovery.

Ms Kelly praised the work of the hospital staff in Crumlin and in Stockholm, but criticised the fact that Emma had to travel abroad to get the treatment she needed.

A statement from Crumlin Children's Hospital confirmed it had the specialised equipment, but only for its cardiac programme, and accepted that the equipment for children was needed.

"To provide respiratory ECMO to children, significant additional resources are required which include staffing and additional capacity in terms of dedicated paediatric critical care beds," it said.

Irish Independent

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