A Child H1N1 Patient's Joyous Homecoming

Tony Estlinbaum
Tony Estlinbaum, 10, who had the H1N1virus and is now undergoing therapy at a rehab clinic.

Hugh Estlinbaum's about to get his son back. Tony, 10, is going home after a six-week drama - a life-and-death battle with H1N1.

Within a day of catching the flu, Tony was living on life-support in the intensive care unit of Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City. After three weeks, the fifth-grader finally opened his eyes, and gradually got well enough to leave the hospital for a rehab clinic.

Tony's still weak. But over 11 days of rehabilitation, his strength and endurance improved. Complete recovery could take a year.

"How long did you think you had slept for?" CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann asked.

"I thought I had slept for a few days," Tony said. "My dad told me I slept for a few weeks."

"What did you think when he told you that?" Strassmann asked.

"I thought he was kidding," Tony said.

There was a time when Tony doing so well was unimaginable.

"This wasn't even in our focus at all," Hugh Estlinbaum said. "Our focus was seeing him breathe by himself."

More coverage of Tony and others at Children's Hospital:

Two H1N1 Kids Now Show "Miracle" Progress
Two H1N1 Patients, Two Different Outcomes

Lateasha Howard was as sick as Tony and will soon leave the same ICU.

"Yes, it's a miracle," said Carolyn Howard, Lateasha's mother. "To see that my baby's doing better."

But two rooms away, Natesha Hart's bed is now empty. On Monday night, the eighth-grade honors student died of H1N1 complications.

But for the Estlinbaums, it's a homecoming to remember, and Tony's siblings Samantha, 8, and Zakary, 4.

"The whole situation didn't seem real," said Lizzy Estlinbaum, Tony's mom. "And now that he's home again, it doesn't seem real, either, but it will."

Six weeks ago, Hugh Estlinbabum saw his son lie in a drug-induced coma. Today - over his shoulder - Tony naps on the couch.

"It looks really good," he said. "It looks really good - it's my boy."

Their boy is back - their family complete.

  • Mark Strassmann
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.