The summer ahead seemed as bright as the South Florida sunshine when Cameron finished the 2008-2009 school year. The bright-eyed West Palm Beach resident, then 8, basked in the promise of carefree days filled with summer camps, swimming pools and family trips to the ice cream parlor. No one dreamed that within weeks Cameron would be fighting for her life, with odds heavily stacked against her.
The first sign of trouble came in June when Cameron came home from day camp with a cough and fever. Cameron parents Kelly and Anthony were quick to respond, knowing their daughter’s asthma put her at risk of complications if she contracted the H1N1 virus.
A swab test at the pediatrician’s office suggested Cameron did not have the virus. But within a week her condition had worsened. Her parents rushed Cameron to a West Palm Beach hospital with a 105-degree fever, she was admitted to the intensive care unit with pneumonia and a collapsed lung.
Within days of hospitalization, Cameron was in a coma and was placed on a ventilator for complications later proven to be associated with H1N1. When her condition continued to deteriorate, doctors suggested she be transferred to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, for advanced care. “Come kiss your daughter,” a Nicklaus Children's LifeFlight® critical-care transport nurse beckoned to Kelly before Cameron and Anthony were airborne for the trip to the region’s pediatric care leader.
Cameron, gravely ill upon arrival at Nicklaus Children's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, was placed at the center of a vast care team led by Dr.Andre Raszynski, Director of Critical Care Medicine, and Dr. Steven Stylianos, Chief of Pediatric Surgery. “The size and scope of the team was overwhelming, yet so reassuring,” recalls Kelly.
Early in her stay, it appeared Cameron would need to be on ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation), a heart/lung bypass therapy that allows failing hearts and lungs to rest while healing occurs. But somehow, at the critical moment when Dr. Stylianos was preparing to connect her to the machines, Cameron rallied and her oxygen levels began to rise and so began a slow recovery that led to Cameron’s release from Nicklaus Children's in September.
“The (Nicklaus Children's) PICU is like a family,” said Kelly. “They treated Cameron like she was their own child. They gave us back our daughter and our future together. We will never forget them.”
Today, Cameron is in the 4th grade. She caught up quickly with her 3rd-grade class, earning straight As, and continues to enjoy music, dance and playing with Callahan, her younger brother, and their Yorkie puppy, Cecil.