No one seemed to know what was wrong with Kiley Lane.
For weeks, the 27-year-old had been suffering severe pain and swelling in her abdomen, telling doctors, nurses and loved ones that she felt as if she had a seat belt stretched across her stomach.
Lane, from Aztec, a small town in New Mexico not far from the Four Corners, went to a nearby emergency room again and again and again.
One doctor suggested that it might be the flu. One considered a blockage. Another wondered whether she might be faking it all, her mother said.
Then in February, Lane tested positive for hantavirus, a rare rodent-borne virus that can spread to humans, causing a dangerous and sometimes deadly respiratory disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lane was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she received treatment for hantavirus and other conditions.
“We all had hope on top of hope that she was going to come through — even until the last minute,” Lane’s mother, Julie Barron, told The Washington Post on Friday. But, Barron said, on April 18, her daughter died.
Barron said the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s illness remain murky. Doctors at the local hospital first determined that she had hantavirus, and then doctors at University of New Mexico Hospital confirmed the diagnosis, she said. But, she said, when the CDC ran a test a month later, it determined that she did not have an active virus.
In the United States, most of these cases are spread by deer mice, which live in woodland areas and deserts and are found throughout North America. People get the disease by breathing in hantavirus when dust from rodents’ dried urine, saliva and droppings is stirred up in the air, which can happen in houses, garages and cabins, especially while cleaning. People can also get it by touching mouse urine, droppings or nesting materials that contain the virus, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
HPS is not spread from human to human. There is no specific treatment, cure or vaccine for the infection. But if infected individuals are recognized early and receive medical attention in an intensive care unit, where they can be given oxygen therapy, they may have a better chance of recovery.
The condition is characterized early on by flulike symptoms such as fatigue, fever and body aches but can also include headaches, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, according to the CDC.
Tione Buranda, an associate professor in the pathology department at the University of New Mexico, told The Post that there is no cure for the disease and the death rate is 30 to 40 percent.
It’s unclear how Lane may have gotten the disease.
Her mother said she was a “constant cleaner” and may have come into contact with mouse urine or droppings. She had also done some housesitting and traveled over the holidays, her mother added.
Barron said they were never able to ask her what could have happened “because she was so sick by the time we found out what she had.”
It was in January when Lane first started to feel ill.
Lane, who had been back and forth from the emergency room several times, was getting worse. When she started to experience shortness of breath, her husband, Kevin, took her to the hospital again.
“She just thought maybe she had the flu — a really bad case of the flu,” Barron said. “I knew it wasn’t the flu. I could tell from the swelling that something else was going on.”
She said her daughter was “getting worse every day.”
On Feb. 3, doctors diagnosed Lane with hantavirus, and two days later she was taken to Albuquerque.
Barron recalled that her daughter’s doctor said she probably wouldn’t survive the flight. But she did. And once she arrived at University of New Mexico Hospital, she was placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine to help filter her blood and keep her alive.
But despite doctors’ best efforts, her health continued to decline.
Barron said that in all, doctors treated her daughter for shingles (a viral infection), pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), Clostridium difficile (a bacterial infection), kidney failure, sepsis and shock.
“It was a roller coaster — up and down, up and down,” she said.
Ultimately, doctors told her family that they had exhausted all possible treatment options.
Barron said she asked her daughter’s doctor: “What made my daughter sick? What brought us here?”
The mother said that the doctor responded, “the hantavirus.”
For 66 days, Barron said family members and friends feared the worst while hoping for the best.
Lane’s husband tried to tell their 2-year-old daughter that her mother was ill. The young child was taken to see her mom so she could hold her hand and say goodbye.
In a Facebook post last week, Barron described the heart-wrenching moment her daughter died.
“There were seconds ... watching those damn monitors ... I was waiting, and then, she was gone. No angels, no miracles, just a room, and my baby girl ... and gone,” she wrote.
Barron said she is sharing her daughter’s story because she wants to raise awareness about hantavirus and the lack of much-needed medical technology and treatment in rural health-care systems.
“There’s no reason for a 27-year-old woman to die because she didn’t get medical care in time,” she said.
Barron said she also does not want those who prayed and rallied around her daughter to see it as a loss.
“Something good is going to come from this,” she said.
“Everybody makes an impact on the world,” Barron said, “and I think Kiley’s is going to be a bigger ripple than she knew.”
Her memorial service will be Saturday in Cedar Crest, N.M.