DENVER (KUSA) - Days into a hospital stay, Sierra Jane Downing, 7, openly asked her parents why she was still hospitalized. She was convinced she merely had the flu.
"She told me, 'mommy, this is just the flu. Can't we go home?'" Darcy Downing said on Wednesday.
If only it were that simple.
"I guess when I first heard the word 'plague,' I was pretty amazed and taken aback," Sean Downing, Darcy's husband, said.
A week and a half ago their daughter became the first person to be diagnosed with bubonic plague in Colorado in six years.
A week and a half later, Sierra Jane remains at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. Both her parents and her doctors remain optimistic she'll be able to leave soon.
The fact that the outcome is this promising is a testament, said her parents, to the quick work of the doctors at the hospital. It's thought the girl was exposed to the bacteria while trying to bury a dead squirrel at the Cimarrona Campground near Pagosa Springs.
When she first went to see a doctor in Pagosa Springs on August 24, she had a temperature of 107 and had just suffered a seizure.
"It's rare to see a 107 degree temperature. I remember speaking to the physician [by phone]. I think I asked him three times, 107?" Dr. Jennifer Snow said during a press conference at the hospital Wednesday.
Dr. Snow was the one who told the doctor in Pagosa Springs to immediately send the girl to Denver via Airlife.
"Honestly, I fell to my knees and said, 'God, if there is an answer, please show me. And He came up with it," Darcy Downing said.
Bubonic plague was not immediately suspected when the girl arrived in Denver, but Dr. Snow was able to eventually confirm her suspicions with Dr. Wendi Drummond, an infectious disease expert at P/SL.
"We both discussed it on the phone," Dr. Drummond said. "It's a weird case. It's just a weird case."
Sierra Jane chose not to talk during Wednesday's press conference. Her parents said she remains quite exhausted and has more recovering to do.
They also said they're glad the doctor in Pagosa Springs was persistent when he chose to seek out the advice of other hospitals.
"Most of the hospitals [he called] were just saying that she would be fine. Just keep her there. Keep her on watch and she'll be fine," Sean Downing said. "But this hospital said, 'Nah, we're coming to get her.'"
That decision, he said, very well could have saved his daughter's life.
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