It Might Happen to the Them

Eileen Zacharias
March 1, 2004

What do I have in common with Jim Henson, Dick Schaap, and Rue McClanahan? They, of course, are all well known, while I am only famous for my apple pie. They have enjoyed various levels of fame for the work that they have done, while I am enjoy various levels of fame, mostly for being Lily and Dana’s mom…

But that one day, when I emerged from a coma in late June 1995 and wanted to know what it was that caused me to get there, the only explanation that was forthcoming was, “You have what Jim Henson had…” Even in a confused and weakened state, I knew that was not good. Since that time, I have learned so much more about acute respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis, and so, when I was talking to a columnist from the Chicago Tribune and he wanted to know if any “celebrities” had survived ARDS, I learned, too, that Golden Girl Rue McClanahan was a survivor.

When I read the January, 2002, People magazine article that Sportscaster Dick Schaap had died from ARDS after complications from knee replacement surgery, I thought that more people would want to know about this syndrome. But I was wrong. Every time ARDS was mentioned, it was described as a “rare syndrome,” and never were the horrific statistics mentioned regarding how many Americans each year will get ARDS, and worse yet, how many will die. It was as if to say, it might happen to them, but never to you.

So, each day, more people contact the ARDS Foundation SHOCKED that they have never heard of ARDS before, and even more shocked when they learn that there are about 150,000 new cases each year in the United States alone and half of those patients might not survive. You may have already figured out what Jim Henson and Dick Schaap sadly have in common as far as this syndrome is concerned. And well, that takes me to what Rue McClanahan and I have in common … we both are ARDS survivors.

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