Paula Blonski

President, ARDS Alliance

My life, and the life of my entire family changed forever on August 8, 1998. That is the day we lost my sister, Marybeth to ARDS.

In May 1998 Marybeth went to the hospital to have minor surgery that consisted of having an ovary removed. After the surgery, Marybeth came home from the hospital and began to receive in home health care to attend to her wound. The wound was not healing properly; therefore, two weeks later, she went back to the hospital to have it cleaned out and remove the infection that had started to allow her to heal. One week later, her temperature was high enough for the doctors to be worried. She was readmitted and it was then that she began her battle.

They ran several tests on Marybeth to determine why she had a fever. Another puzzling factor was that her white blood cell count was low, which is unusual with a fever. She began to get progressively sicker and began to have trouble breathing. They decided to do a bone marrow extraction in which the results told us she had Leukemia.

We were both puzzled, and devastated at this news, but decided not to tell her yet. We wanted her to keep her strength up for the battle ahead. She was still having trouble breathing, so they decided next to next do a lung biopsy. During the biopsy, her lung collapsed and they intubated her.

Marybeth now officially had ARDS. The decision was made to move her to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. The physicians there were hopeful that they could cure the leukemia, if only they could stabilize her ARDS.

Marybeth spent the next three weeks on the ARDS roller coaster. One day, when they could no longer stabilize her with medication, she slipped away.

The loss of Marybeth was devastating. Marybeth was only thirty-six years old and previous good health. She had been a nurse, who had spent her life caring for others. During Marybeth’s lengthy hospitalization, we had very few resources and little information. They were surprised and amazed that Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome affects so many people each year, killing at least half of them, yet they had never heard of this syndrome. Marybeth died in August 1988, three months after she went to the hospital to have her surgery

It has been my goal since that time, to help others dealing with the effects of ARDS. This has come to be my purpose. It is my hope that one day, ARDS will be 4 letters that no longer devastate patients, or families.

“My life, and the life of my entire family changed forever on August 8, 1998. That is the day we lost my sister, Marybeth to ARDS”

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