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Published October 05, 2010, 12:00 AM

Day care provider dies after long illness

Through the many illnesses Samantha “Sami” Rudolph-Zebley suffered during her final year, only one of her organs wasn’t affected. “She had a very good, strong heart,” said her mother, Jeanene Zebley.

Through the many illnesses Samantha “Sami” Rudolph-Zebley suffered during her final year, only one of her organs wasn’t affected.

“She had a very good, strong heart,” said her mother, Jeanene Zebley.

Rudolph-Zebley, a 31-year-old mother of two and day care provider, died Sunday after a nearly yearlong struggle that started with a flu-like illness.

The Fargo woman was hospitalized Nov. 6 for breathing problems that followed a bout of what her mother believes was H1N1 flu in mid-October.

Within 36 hours of arriving at Essentia Health in Fargo, she was on a ventilator in the intensive-care unit and put in a drug-induced coma.

She suffered from pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome and encephalopathy, and had irreversible brain damage.

Rudolph-Zebley could no longer talk. As time went on, she would nod or shake her head slightly to indicate “yes” or “no,” and her eyes would be open, her mother said Monday.

“Either I or the boys could always get her to respond. She’d pucker up for those kisses,” she said.

Her recovery was hampered by three “superbugs,” including the staph infection MRSA, Zebley said.

“Every step that she took forward – which was so hard, she worked so hard to get there – ‘bam,’ something would knock her back three steps,” she said. “She’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever known.”

In mid-September, doctors found Rudolph-Zebley had developed a fistula, an abnormal opening in her bowel. She was transferred Friday from Triumph Hospital in Fargo to the Golden Living Center in Moorhead.

“The family knew at that point that it wouldn’t be very long,” her mom said.

Zebley said it was important that her daughter’s family – her two boys, David, 13, and Chandler, 11, her mother and father, Byron Zebley, and her three surviving siblings – all had the opportunity to say goodbye in person. Her younger sister Fallon died in 2006 at age 24.

Dozens of others offered prayers and condolences on her CaringBridge website. Her guestbook had more than 500 entries.

“It’s incredible to me that people I’ve never met would just surround our family with love and prayers and help me get through some pretty tough times,” Zebley said. “I’m grateful that they were there.”

Zebley, who with her husband will care for the two boys, said her daughter will be remembered as someone who was loved by many and “very good with children,” especially those she cared for at her home.

“I’m going to miss my baby,” she said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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