Woman gives birth while in a coma fighting H1N1 flu

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A mother’s weak, trembling hand touched her baby for the first time on Thursday.

“I think the only reason I’ve made it as far as I have as quickly as I have is because of him,” said Abby Unruh of Osawatomie.

Unruh is still in the intensive care unit of Overland Park Regional Medical Center. Her baby boy, Douglas, was visiting from the neonatal intensive care unit. Unruh, age 19, became ill in late December and was treated for bronchitis.

But the illness worsened. She passed out on New Year’s Eve, and was transferred to Overland Park Regional. It turns out she had pneumonia resulting from H1N1 flu.

“Abby was very critically ill. She could not breathe without support from a mechanical ventilator,” said Dr. James Kaplan, a critical care specialist.

On January 7th, at just 34 weeks along, the illness triggered labor. Even though Unruh was in a medically-induced coma, she went through the natural stages of labor.

“They told me that she actually pushed,” said her grandmother, Katherine Unruh.

Two medical teams were in the room — one to save Unruh and the other to save the baby.

“Came out crying and peeing. Praise the Lord,” said Katherine Unruh.

But Abby Unruh was not out of the woods.

“She was literally at death’s door,” said her grandmother.

She spent almost two more weeks on the ventilator. The family placed a photo of the baby in the room so when Unruh awakened, she would see him.

“Kinda crazy. How many people give birth when they’re in a coma?” said Unruh.

Her family says the survival of both mother and baby is a miracle.

“There are no words to explain how incredible it is to see the two of them together,” said Katherine Unruh.

Abby Unruh had not had a flu shot. She and her family encourage others to get one every year.

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1 Comment

  • Michelle

    So interesting I saw this article today. 3 years ago today, I gave birth to my daughter, Savanna Hope, naturally, while I was in an induced coma from getting the H1N1 flu, which also turned into pneumonia. Unfortunately, my daughter had died 4 days earlier because of lack of oxygen. I was too sick to deliver her when she died, but did 4 days later. I wish I could have woken up and seen a picture of my daughter alive. The flu shot is so important. I hadn’t had one either. I know a lot of women don’t think it is good and it won’t help, but it does have the H1N1 vaccine in it, and that is the flu that really affects pregnant women. There were 5 pregnant women that year that went through the CVICU with the flu and pneumonia.
    As hard as today has been for me, I am so thankful you are alive and are going to be able to enjoy your son. Congratulations!!!


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