Perkins released from hospital after CDC orders second tests

Published 6:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2003

Wearing a hospital gown and rainbow-colored socks Wednesday afternoon, Patti Perkins showed little signs of an illness that has brought her state and national attention.

Perkins was hospitalized Monday with pneumonia after she became ill during a recent two-week trip to China. However, because of the timing of the trip and a worldwide alert due to a flu-like illness that has claimed 14 lives, Perkins’ case attracted heightened precautions. It also caught the attention of the King’s Daughters Medical Center staff, the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control.

“Because I was in all the provinces in China, they’re monitoring it more closely,” Perkins said, adding that her symptoms met CDC protocols.

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Initial tests showed Perkins’ illness was bacterial and not viral, as in the cases associated with the Severe Acute RespiratorySyndrome (SARS). Nevertheless, Perkins said CDC officials wanted more tests run to confirm the diagnosis.

“It’s truly just precautionary,” Perkins said.

Perkins had expected to go home Wednesday but that was delayed.She was in the process of being released Thursday morning.

“They’re just holding on to me a little longer because Dr. (Ray)Montalvo heard some crackling in my lungs,” Perkins said Wednesday afternoon.

Perkins said the crackling sound indicated some pneumonia remained.

Perkins said she first became ill on March 8 in Jin Hua, China.She described it as a residual cough and shortness of breath.

After returning to the United States Sunday, Perkins was hospitalized in the Isolation Intensive Care Unit at King’s Daughters Monday. She was moved to a regular room Tuesday afternoon.

Philip Grady, KDMC chief executive officer, said the hospital received a SARS bulletin from the state around 2:30 p.m. Monday. The information was distributed to hospital staff and an employee reported Perkins’ conditions around 6 p.m.

“That basically put everything in motion to set up state and CDC protocols to protect not only the patient, but staff and visitors as well,” Grady said.

Grady said the hospital’s infection control procedures, under the direction of Cathy Bridge, were put in place and the infection control committee was also notified. He said a medical staff meeting was held Tuesday regarding Perkins’ case.

“The state department of health was a tremendous resource and help to us in this situation,” Grady said.

Perkins said KDMC personnel responded very well to her situation.

“Everybody here has been so nice and so professional…,” Perkins said. “They knew procedures, and they knew protocol.”

Perkins said she expected it would take about a month to regain her energy after her bout with pneumonia.

“I’m not in any pain. I feel great,” she said.

Despite her illness, Perkins said she would like to go back toChina. She said her situation would have been worse if not for Montalvo making sure she had the necessary vaccinations.

“Dr. Ray had me really prepared,” Perkins said, adding that the illness that affected her was a different strain.

Perkins said she was blessed to live in Brookhaven and appreciated all the calls from friends. With her husband Jimmy at her side, she watched television and read newspapers, which included stories on her condition.

Jimmy Perkins speculated that war with Iraq may preempt further coverage of his wife’s illness. Patti didn’t seem to mind that possibility.

“I’m ready for this 15 minutes of fame to go away,” Patti Perkins said.