Hi, Unhurried Dad here! (See what we did there). I am sure that you have begun seeing posts saying something like “RSV Season is Here” or “Please Don’t Kiss My Baby.” First off, please don’t kiss somebody’s baby without permission. That is totally not cool and highly inappropriate, no matter how cute they are with their juicy cheeks. But secondly, what’s all the hype with RSV season? I mean, it’s just a cold right? If you want to skip to the practical tips on avoiding RSV, click here!
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Correct! It is only a cold!
In adults…. Most people and children with a fully developed immune system only experience cold like symptoms, and in fact, most kids have it by age 2. Click here to read more about the nitty gritty of RSV from the Mayo Clinic. But when it comes to babies, this virus can be life threatening.
Our Experience with RSV
In October of 2016, my wife and I were bringing home a beautiful 3 day old little girl. She was happy, healthy, and full of life (poopy diapers and all). All was well until around the 8 week mark. One night over the course of a couple of hours, she stopped eating, was lethargic, started running a fever, and developed a cough with shortness of breath. It was a night and day difference over a two hour time period. Our pediatrician recommended us to take her immediately to the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta (CHOA). I still credit her with saving my daughters life.
Upon arriving, my little girl continued to decline. The doctors were performing tests, drawing blood, giving breathing treatments, and giving oxygen. Meanwhile, we were watching her decline in front of our eyes. They admitted her to the PICU with a diagnosis of RSV. She had also contracted enterovirus and rhinovirus. As I watched them start hooking up IV’s and put tubes down her throat and in her nose, I quickly realized that this was not just a cold.
The Downward Spiral
Ultimately, they had to sedate her and intubate her. She was there for 17 days, and with all of the modern medical technology at our disposal at CHOA, she continued to decline. She wasn’t breathing on her own, and she wasn’t moving. Little did we know that she had developed sepsis as well as pneumonia. At this point, we were a few days from Christmas.
I remember the first time that she had a setback. I was sitting there and all of the sudden, lights and alarms started going off, and people started to rush into the room. Helpless… I have never felt so helpless. It was as if the world had stopped moving and everything was in slow motion. I remember thinking, “God please don’t let this be my story. Please don’t take her.” After what felt like an eternity, they got her stabilized. That happened over and over again over the course of a few days. Each one seemed worst than the one before.
During this time, I found myself in a hurricane of emotions. I would lean into the Lord, then I would be angry with Him. I would feel defeated, and helpless, but then I would feel that He had it in his hands. In the middle of it all, the doctors language kind of took a turn. It went from hopeful to “she’s really sick,” and at one point, one of the nurses said that she was the sickest baby in the PICU. Let me remind you that this is at CHOA… where the really sick babies go.
Honestly, I had lost hope, and at that point I had seen two major setbacks, and Christmas was here. I had prayed my heart out, and was just numb. Ultimately I found myself in the chapel one night. Can I just say that I had the most ugly cry in my life. God and I hashed out some things and it was not pretty. I am so thankful that He is full of grace and forgiveness because if I were Him, I would have ended me. Ultimately, I came to the place of peace that if she left us, her earthly parents, she would be with her Heavenly Father.
… and the Light
Did we see an immediate turn around, no. Did we experience an instant healing miracle, where the doctors were baffled and revival moved throughout the hospital, no. But, we did see progress. We saw slow forward movement. They were able to lift the sedation and extubate her. I remember the first time that she opened her eyes. She woke up so happy. A couple of days later, they moved us into a regular room. We stayed there for a while, and she continued to get better. Then, the day came that the doctor said that we could go home. I have never had another gift that rivaled that day.
There are not enough good things to say about the team at CHOA. The staff was amazing. With all the time that we spent there, we started to get to know them, and they were fantastic. They knew the severity of what we were facing and made sure to give our little the care that she needed.
Fast-forward to Today
She is a happy, and healthy little almost 3 year old. She is as beautiful as her momma and as curious as her daddy. They said that there could be physical and neurological damage as a result of all the interventions, but we have seen none. She is truly one of our biggest miracles, and it is interesting to think that God has given her to us twice.
Is RSV Just a Cold?
No. It is not “just a cold.” It is a virus that can look like a cold, but affects babies much worse than a common cold.
Symptoms can include:
- Labored Breathing
Take every possible step to avoid it. Treat it like it is life or death. I don’t want you to live in fear, but please take it seriously. With that said, it is IMPOSSIBLE to prevent it 100%. So, mom or dad, if your infant gets it, please don’t blame yourself. I repeat…. Please do not blame yourself.
Here are a few things that you can do to prevent your little one from getting it, and to prevent others from spreading it:
- Just wash your hands.
- Cover your mouth when you cough.
- Stay away from crowds. Avoid taking a newborn out in public.
- DON’T KISS OTHERS PEOPLE’S BABIES (Sorry grandparents not during RSV season).
- Use hand sanitizer before picking up someone else’s baby.
- Invest in sanitizing wipes to carry with you!
- If your child has a cold, don’t take them in the church nursery around other babies.
- Don’t go to places where massive amounts of children congregate.
If you have little one that is going through this now, or if they go though this in the future, please know that you are not alone. You are not at fault, and you are still a good parent. Don’t lose heart, and don’t lose hope. If your little one starts to develop any of the symptoms, just be highly aware, and don’t be ashamed or fearful about taking them to the doctor. It is better to be safe than sorry. And, don’t be afraid of the financial burden as well. Money comes and goes, but your little ones are not replaceable. If you want to learn some practical tips on how to deal with medical debt (trust me, we have practice) click here!