Sierra Downing: Home from the hospital


    By Randi Pierce

    Staff Writer

    Pancakes, popsicles, a trip to the zoo and a trip home.

    It would be a good week for any 7-year-old, never mind one recuperating from bubonic plague.

    Sierra Jane Downing contracted the illness while recreating with her family in the area of Williams Creek Reservoir, at Cimarrona Campground, on Aug. 19 and was air lifted to Denver days later.

    Sierra was released from the Rocky Mountain Children’s Hospital at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s on Monday and celebrated Tuesday morning with a trip to the zoo.

    Her first meal since she entered the hospital came on Saturday morning, in the form of pancakes — requested by Sierra, of course.

    Mom Darcy Downing said doctors are still checking Sierra’s pancreas, but reported the family planned to return to Pagosa yesterday (Wednesday).

    That’s not where the good news for Sierra ends.

    She is also getting a drum set, which she has long wanted.

    Darcy said that, thanks to the relationship created with the hospital staff during Sierra’s illness, the hospital purchased the drum set for Sierra.

    The drum set was not delivered by the time Sierra was discharged from the hospital, so delivery was rerouted to the family’s home in Pagosa.

    “Her happy little spirit is doing good,” Darcy said.

    But it isn’t all fun and games for Sierra now that she is out of the hospital.

    She still tires easily (her trip to the zoo was done in a wheelchair) and she faces checkups in both Pagosa and Durango, as well as physical therapy.

    School, too, remains on the back burner for Sierra, who will first work to regain strength, then may ease back in to the school routine with half days, Darcy said.

    Darcy and Sean Downing offered their thanks to the community for the help and support offered throughout Sierra’s illness.

    Darcy also revealed that Sierra’s illness will likely help Pagosa, with Drs. Jennifer Snow and Wendi Drummond (who diagnosed and treated Sierra) interested in teaching a class at Pagosa Springs Medical Center.

    Claire Bradshaw, director of development for the hospital, said nothing had been set up with the hospital as of Wednesday, but added that the hospital would be interested.

    “We would love to do it,” Bradshaw said.

    Sierra’s is the first human case of bubonic plague in Colorado since 2006.