On September 12, 2009, healthy, athletic, 10-year-old Tony Estlinbaum was gearing up for his first big football game. He had been looking forward to this moment for years. But, after the game, Tony had a severe headache. He took a nap and woke up feeling much better and asked to have a friend spend the night. The following morning, Tony developed a seal-like barking cough and slight fever.
The next day, on September 14, his parents took him to the pediatrician where he was diagnosed with influenza and borderline pneumonia. Tony was sent home with a breathing machine and a prescription for Tamiflu. Later that evening, Tony’s temperature spiked to 105 degrees. Not wasting any time, Tony’s parents called an on-call nurse and then rushed to the hospital. Once they arrived, the doctor immediately ordered x-rays. After reviewing the x-rays, his parents were told an ambulance was on the way to take Tony to a better-equipped hospital.
After they arrived at the pediatric ICU Tony was put on a breathing machine that would force air whenever he took a breath. After more x-rays, the physician told his parents about the grave situation they were facing. Tony had a collapsed lung and needed a chest tube to drain the fluid built up in-between his chest cavity and lung. He also said Tony would be put in a drug-induced coma for the ventilator and eventually be put on an ECMO machine to oxygenate his body.
Seeing Tony silently screaming for life was excruciating for his parents. His father fell on his knees on the cold hospital floor wailing, “Oh God, no!” Sanity was starting to seem like a dream from long ago.
Weeks went by and the doctor eventually told Tony’s parents that there was nothing more they could do for their son. They had done all they could and they were just out of options. Saying goodbye to Tony was something his parent’s hearts couldn’t or wouldn’t prepare for. But, Tony’s father didn’t want him to go without him knowing how much he enjoyed having him as his son, his buddy.
There were days Tony’s parents thought they would never awaken from this nightmare that had besieged their young son. Hugh Estlinbaum, Tony’s father, has written a sincere and inspiring book titled, “A Line That Was Drawn” that describes his son’s harrowing experience with H1N1 influenza.
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