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Opp boy sick with H1N1 flu

When 7-year-old Kolby Dyess of Opp had difficulty breathing at home Fri., July 24, his parents immediately knew something was wrong. What they didn’t know was that Kolby had contracted the H1N1 flu virus and would spend the next three weeks at several hospitals as doctors fought both the virus and breathing complications.

Kolby, a second grader at Fleeta School, is currently undergoing treatment at the Emory Children’s Center in Atlanta, Ga., where he has been since Wed., July 29. He has been sedated the entire time, but his father, Kerry Dyess, said his son is showing signs of improvement.

“(Kolby) was at the house to start with and I came in and noticed he was breathing heavily,” Dyess said. “I thought to myself, ‘that’s not normal,’ so we took him to see our doctor. He was running a 102-104 temperature and they did some quick tests and realized he had a bit of a problem.

“Our doctor called down to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola and they sent a helicopter to pick Kolby up. He was there for about a week, when the doctors there realized the virus was starting to attack his lungs.”

Dyess said doctors at Sacred Heart discovered holes in each of Kolby’s lungs, which made it very difficult for the child to breathe. They quickly called Emory, which sent a jet to pick up Kolby and transported him immediately to Atlanta on July 29.

In Atlanta, doctors connected Kolby to an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, which adds oxygen to a person’s blood and also provides breathable oxygen into the lungs.

“He’s been sedated for close to two weeks,” Dyess said. “The sedation is to keep him from accidentally pulling out any of the tubes on the machine. This machine allows his lungs to rest, so that way his lungs can collapse down and start healing.”

Dyess said that as of Monday, the hole in Kolby’s left lung appeared to be sealing up.

“That is just wonderful news,” he said. “Hopefully, both lungs will heal up and they’ll be able to take him off the ECMO machine and just hook him up to a regular respirator. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Dyess said doctors are not sure where Kolby may have initially caught the virus. He said it is especially unusual, because Kolby contracted the virus while his 5-year-old brother, Kasey, did not.

“They know this was caused by the H1N1 virus, and luckily he’s far enough along with fighting the virus that the doctors have taken him off the antibiotics,” he said. “They’re really not sure why Kasey didn’t catch it as well — he had a small fever at one time, but other than that he was fine. The doctors at Emory are actually taking some DNA tests from my wife (Sonya) and me, and they’re going to look at the data and see if they can figure out why one child would have problems, and another child wouldn’t.”

Dyess said Sonya and his mother-in-law have been staying in Atlanta with Kolby, while Dyess travels back and forth periodically between Opp and the hospital.

“We were actually lucky, because Emory provides an extra room for any patient who is hooked up to the ECMO machine,” he said. “So Sonya has been staying there at the hospital the whole time, and my mother-in-law is at a hotel and spending a lot of time there as well. It’s good to know that there’s always two people there with him at all times.”

Frieda Bradshaw, Kolby’s aunt, said the community has been supportive of Kolby and his family, both through prayers and monetary donations.

“We have calls coming in all the time questioning how he’s doing and how the family is doing,” she said. “Several churches have had him on their prayer list, and we really appreciate that. The Dyess family would just like to thank every one for their prayers, and ask they continue to keep him and the family on their prayer list.”

In addition, Bradshaw said there is an assistance fund for those who would like to send monetary donations to help the family. Those who wish to donate can go to any Wachovia location and ask to donate to the ‘Kolby Dyess Fund,’ or they can send a check to Country Cathedral, P.O. Box 368, Opp, AL 36467, Attention: Laurette Blair.