Marin pregnant woman died of swine flu

July 29, 2009 6:29:35 PM PDT
ABC7 News has confirmed that one of the people who died of the H1N1 flu this spring was a pregnant woman from Marin County and her family claims local health authorities were ill prepared to save her life.

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The family has kept a low profile since 33-year-old Jaime Norman died, but with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warnings about the H1N1 virus, they have decided to speak out.

Norman went into the hospital 29 weeks pregnant with flu symptoms -- she never came out. But doctors were able to save her baby.

Her baby, Jack, was born nearly two months premature. She held him, her first and only child, just once before she died of the swine flu.

"She was at least conscious enough that to know that they had put him on her stomach and touch the hands so there was some contact for about half an hour," Norman's husband Eric Sheldon said.

Norman was Marin County's first swine flu death and her family has questions about whether health care workers were prepared to treat her illness.

"Totally the lab had not any experience in H1N1, they thought it was H1N3," Norman's mother Barbara Norman said.

Norman checked into the emergency room at Marin General Hospital. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and ultimately swine flu.

"I can't be angry because they were fairly out of the loop where most of the cases were happening," Barbara Norman said.

CDC researchers said Wednesday the swine flu has been especially devastating to pregnant women. Expectant mothers who catch the virus have a higher risk of serious illness and death. Fifteen women in the country died of swine flu between April and June; it is unknown how many more, like Norman, have died since then.

After being born so many months early, baby Jack is doing well and expected to be released from Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley in about three weeks.

His father is looking forward to it, but with sadness.

"I believe when Jack does get home from the hospital that's when it's going to really hit home that I'm by myself," Sheldon said.

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