If not for a virus called H1N1 and better known as swine flu, Mandy Kimbler of Toledo was to embark upon her new year as the new mother of twins.
While the 24-year-old Mrs. Kimbler did give birth to her boys - Brayden and Bradley - they arrived Oct. 26, nearly 11 weeks premature of her early January due date. She was in a medically induced coma at the time of the cesarean section and being treated for the influenza.
On Nov. 5, Mrs. Kimbler died at Toledo Hospital of which doctors presumed to be complications from H1N1. The official cause of death was Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. She never saw her newborns.
"Never got to see them, never got to hold them," Teri Emahiser, Mrs. Kimbler's mother, recalled yesterday as she fought back tears. "The thing that hurts the most is she never got to see the boys."
Now two months later, family members say the twins are out of the hospital and doing well. However, medical bills for Mrs. Kimbler and the twins are piling up.
That burden has fallen greatest on Mrs. Kimbler's husband, David Kimbler. Mr. Kimbler, 26, is living with his grandmother in Springfield Township with the twins and the Kimblers' 3-year-old daughter, Mahala.
Further jolting everyone's emotions, Mahala was diagnosed with H1N1 shortly after her mother's death. Thankfully, she made a successful recovery after receiving treatment with the antiviral drug Tamiflu, family members said.
Mr. Kimbler had health insurance for his family, yet the mounting hospital expenses quickly stretched beyond his financial means. He is currently on leave from his job as a United Parcel Service driver to care for the newborns.
With Woodward High School photos of Mandy hanging on a nearby wall, Mrs. Emahiser stood yesterday in the dining room of her North Toledo home alongside her daughter's stepfather, Dale Emahiser, and Michelle Downes, her daughter's cousin.
They announced a Jan. 9 Kimbler Family Fund Benefit, a spaghetti dinner and raffle in the St. Clement Parish hall, 3030 Tremainsville Rd. Event proceeds are to go toward medical expenses.
The twins, young Mahala, and their father were absent during the media announcement. Mr. Kimbler spent his morning at Toledo Hospital preparing to bring Brayden home for a second time.
The twins were home for Christmas, but Brayden made a return visit to the hospital when worrisome readings showed up on his heart and breathing monitors.
The Emahisers said the holidays have been especially hard for them as they struggle to adjust to life without their daughter. Mrs. Emahiser said she is still haunted by mental images of her daughter lying unconscious in the hospital bed, deathly ill from the swine flu.
"It's hard for anyone to lose a family member, but to lose someone from this kind of thing was really rough," she said.
"It was a day-to-day thing whether she would make it or not, and in the end it was only a miracle that was going to save her they told us."
In the end, the family's miracle was that of birth.
The Emahisers said they will do everything they can to help their son-in-law get a handle on life as a single father of three. They believe their daughter is looking out for her husband and children, too.
"She sees them from up in heaven because I know that's where Mandy went," Mrs. Emahiser said. "And I know she's looking out for all three of the kids - both boys and Mahala.
Next weekend's spaghetti dinner and raffle fund-raiser will be from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the church. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens, and $5 for children.
Donations can be made to the Kimbler Children Benefit Dinner Fund at Fifth Third Bank.
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