Kiley Lane went to the hospital last month after she experienced flu-like symptoms
The mother of a 27-year-old woman who has been hospitalized for weeks is warning others about the rare rodent-borne virus that is threatening her daughter’s life.
Kiley Lane of Farmington, New Mexico, visited doctors in early January after experiencing nausea and abdominal pain. Physicians told Lane she had a “blockage” and prescribed her laxatives to ease her discomfort. But it was just a few weeks later on February 1 that Lane returned to the hospital at the urging of her husband, Kevin, when she had difficulties breathing.
“Our family doesn’t really go to the doctor a lot, but in this particular case, her husband just had the gut instinct that they didn’t need to wait around and he took her into the ER pretty quickly,” Lane’s mother, Julie Barron, tells PEOPLE. “That probably saved her life.”
Lane—who has a 2-year-old daughter—was soon placed on a ventilator as her health worsened. As doctors tested her for various infections, they remained at a loss as to what was affecting her so drastically.
The hospital evaluated Lane for hepatitis, pneumonia and influenza—a virus that has led to the death of dozens around the country for several months—but the tests kept coming back negative. It wasn’t until doctors tested for the rare virus, know as hantavirus, that they finally had a match.
“When I first heard the word, I was actually glad to know what we were fighting,” Barron, 52, says. “Kiley had been in the hospital there for four days without knowing and I could tell she was getting worse. I feel like we can face anything when we know what we’re dealing with.”
Hantavirus is usually spread through contact with rodents—such as the deer mice, cotton rats, rice rats, and the white-footed mouse—and is usually transmitted to humans when they are bitten or come into contact with fresh rodent droppings. The virus can lead to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which causes coughing and shortness of breath as fluid builds up in the lungs. Fortunately, the transmission of hantavirus to humans is extremely rare, with only 728 reported cases in the United States as of January 2017. But the virus can be fatal and has a mortality rate of 38 percent.
Lane was flown to the ICU at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque on February 5, and placed on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which supports patients with failing hearts and lungs by pumping oxygen throughout the body. She has been hooked up to the machine ever since.
“They just want her to get better and she is improving,” Barron says of her daughter, who was a preschool teacher before raising her daughter full-time. “But they think she needs to be improving a little bit faster.”
Barron says her intent isn’t to scare anyone, but she believes it is important for other families to take precaution if someone they know starts to experience symptoms of hantavirus, especially if they were around areas where rodents may have been. Symptoms of the hantavirus are not unlike the flu, and include fever, exhaustion, muscle aches and nausea.
“Kiley’s story may be unique, and who knows why she or how she contracted it,” she says. “But the important thing is people do need to know— if they think they’ve been exposed — to ask to be tested, because the doctors probably aren’t going to think of the virus just off the bat.”
As of today, Lane remains sedated in the hospital but is slowly making progress. Barron praises her doctors and the ECMO machine that is keeping her daughter alive, but says they remain “cautiously optimistic” about Lane’s recovery and are taking things a day at a time.
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“Whenever they wake her up, she tries to talk and then that makes her cough. Then her vitals go all over the place, so they’re just kind of keeping her sedated,” she says.
A family friend has set up a donation page to help the family pay for Lane’s ever-increasing medical expenses, and it has so far raised more than $27,000 of its $40,000 goal.
Barron says her son-in-law, Kevin, has been a “champion” throughout this trying time, having spent countless hours by his wife’s side. Barron is holding on to hope for her daughter, and is thankful for the prayers that have been sent their way.
“Kiley is a ball of life. I mean, she is creative and funny and…” Barron says while fighting back tears. “She’s thoughtful, and she has a lot of things she still wants to do.”