Rilee Higley – ARDS Survivor

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Rilee Higley – ARDS Survivor


Thirty-five year old Rilee Higley is an ARDS survivor. On February 18, 2004, her Mom went in to check on her at about 11:00 AM and by night fall, Rilee was in the ICU at Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Washington. Rilee had a fever, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and her oxygen levels were low.

On February 19, 2004, Rilee’s friend, James, and her mom spent the night in the ICU. Rilee did not seem to be getting any better. This continued for days until the doctor finally came to the conclusion that Rilee had acute respiratory distress syndrome. Her physicians said that Rilee would need to be airlifted to Harborview in Seattle.

The family headed for Seattle. They all met in the emergency room and were taken up to see Rilee on the 9th floor. At that time, they realized just how ill Rilee was as they were told she only had a 65% chance of survival. She was on 100% oxygen.

On February 21, 2004, Rilee was still about the same, still on 100% oxygen. Family members spoke to a hospital representative who wanted to include Rilee in a study, but after discussing the options and talking to her physician, they declined involvement in the study.

On February 22, 2004, there was still little change with Rilee and she was sedated all the time. The next day, still there was no change. But on February 24, 2004, at 9:45 AM, Rilee’s team of doctors were, for the first time, full of wonderful news; they said that her breathing tube would probably come out in 24 to 72 hours with a couple of days to get stabilize and then she would need about a week of therapy before she went home.

Incredible news. Rilee had been able to breathe on her own for 5 minutes. The next day, she was able to breathe on her own for thirty minutes. They reduced her settings and she was breathing easier though she was still sedated.

On February 26, 2004, the doctors said that Rilee was making great progress and at about noon, they removed the tube in her throat. As the day progressed, she was getting more alert, confused and angry. She wanted to go home.

The following day she got a little closer to that goal. Rilee was moved out of the ICU. On February 28, 2004, Rilee was a bit off the wall, but as the day continued, she settled down.The next day, she was still a little agitated, and her doctors decided that she had been on too much medication that was stopped abruptly and now she would be gradually withdrawn. Finally, after two weeks in the hospital, Rilee was discharged. They made it home at 9:15 P.M. A long day, but good to be home.

Besides suffering from some memory loss, Rilee is doing well. She lives in Aberdeen, Washington.