Ark. woman fights for life, loses baby to H1N1
She's in a medically induced coma; doctors gave her an experimental drug and may do an ECMO procedure as the community rallies around the 29-year-old
By Stacy Ryburn
FORT SMITH, Ark. — The community has rallied behind a Fort Smith woman who is in critical condition after she was diagnosed with H1N1.
Leslie Creekmore, 29, was admitted to Mercy Fort Smith on Jan. 11 after she started running a fever and suffered shortness of breath. She was 20 weeks pregnant at the time, said her sister-in-law, Jamie Cook.
Her condition quickly worsened. Creekmore was transferred to the ICU that night, and by Monday, was placed on a ventilator because of complications from double pneumonia. She was flown Tuesday to St. Louis for further treatment, Cook said.
Doctors took a blood sample from Creekmore and confirmed Thursday that she had been infected with H1N1, which led to the double pneumonia, Cook said.
Also Thursday, Creekmore lost her baby.
“Her body just spontaneously delivered the baby,” Cook said. “She’s sedated, so she doesn’t know that she lost the baby.”
Creekmore is currently in a medically induced coma at a hospital in St. Louis. Late Thursday, doctors gave Creekmore an experimental drug not yet approved by the FDA and designed to fight the H1N1, Cook said.
Doctors in St. Louis are closely monitoring Creekmore’s condition. They have given her pressurized oxygen to fill her lungs, Epinephrine to keep her heart beating and her blood pressure up, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications. The longer she is in a coma, the more her muscle tissue will break down, Cook said.
As a last resort, doctors possibly could use an ECMO machine. The risky procedure would require removing Creekmore’s blood, oxygenating it, and then placing the blood back into her body, bypassing her lung function, Cook said.
A best-case scenario would be that Creekmore has a very long stay and very long recovery. If she does survive and wakes up, there will be grueling physical therapy and coming to terms with the loss of her baby ahead, Cook said.
Creekmore’s husband and Cook’s brother, Chris Creekmore, has had to face what most would consider to be their biggest personal nightmare, Cook said.
“He’s found a strength that we’ve never seen in him before,” Cook said.
Cook said the two had decided on a name for the baby — Jera Christine.
“It’s been definitely tough and heart-breaking, but we’re getting there,” Chris Creekmore said.
Chris Creekmore said since a Facebook page was created named “Love for Leslie,” he and his family have seen an unbelievable outpouring of support. As of 7 p.m. Friday, the group had more than 2,200 members, with more adding up by the minute.
A fundraising page to assist with the family’s costly medical expenses had raised nearly $5,000 late Friday. Ink to the People, a custom T-shirt company, has shirts available online for $12 each to help raise money for the family.
Chris Creekmore said friends, family, people he hasn’t heard from in years and total strangers have flocked in support. Family members have joined him at the hospital in St. Louis, where he plans to stay as long as necessary.
“It’s been the very shortest of windows when I was up here on my own,” he said.
Friday evening, Cook posted to the Facebook page that Leslie Creekmore’s mean arterial pressure, which is a measurement of average blood pressure, had improved. However, when doctors tried to reduce the oxygen concentration in her ventilator, it did not go well, Cook stated.
“The physicians prepared the family for a long journey,” Cook stated. “They said it will be two steps forward and one step back. As long as she is given the chance to take steps at all, we are happy.”
Chris Creekmore said in addition to the support, dozens of people have reached out to express the importance of getting a flu shot, and that they either had gotten one or were planning on it.
“Just get it done,” Chris Creekmore said.
On Friday morning, Mercy Fort Smith offered a free flu shot clinic. The free clinic was scheduled to last until 1 p.m. Friday, but incredibly high demand left the team completely out of adult flu shots before 9 a.m., just two hours into the program, according to Samantha Cole, director of community health and access for the hospital.
Flu shots are available for a fee at the Sebastian County Health Department or any Mercy Convenient Care location, among other places in Fort Smith.
Leslie Creekmore is a librarian at the Children’s Department of the Fort Smith Public Library.
Donations can be made at www.loveforleslie.com.