Kristie Flowers had been sick with the flu for four or five days in July before the 52-year-old registered nurse from Genoa, Colo., acknowledged she needed to go to the ER.
At Lincoln Community Hospital, about 10 miles from her home on the Eastern Plains of Colorado, doctors quickly diagnosed her with pneumonia and sepsis. Her right lung had completely filled with fluid, and Flowers needed much more intensive care than the 15-bed hospital could provide.
Doctors stabilized Flowers and transferred her by ambulance about 80 miles away to St. Francis Medical Center in Colorado Springs. There, doctors put her on a ventilator for 10 days as they slowly