Parenting and Family Activities
The day she was admitted to the hospital.
This marks the 5 year anniversary that my middle child and only daughter was admitted to the ICU for respiratory distress at only one month old. She was diagnosed with a virus called RSV (stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus). RSV causes cold symptoms in adults but can be fatal to the very young.
It was December of my 4th year of residency (and my husband's first year of fellowship) when she was born… right in the middle of the lung crud season. Being a resident, I was limited to the amount of time I could take off, so at only 5 1/2 weeks old, I dropped my newborn off at daycare. I was nervous about her age, and knew some kind of illness was inevitable, but it was one of those things I had to do. By the end of the week, she started having a cough and stuffy nose but it wasn't too bad. I took her in to her pediatrician anyway and she was diagnosed with a viral upper respiratory infection... we got a prescription for albuterol to give her if needed. She got her breathing treatments and we continued to watch her, thinking, “it’s just a cold, there’s nothing we can do.” On the night of January 24th, I was up with her because she fussy, coughing, crying (and so was I).. so I decided to make an appointment with her pediatrician. I called the appointment number in my new working mom of a sick baby fog and a nurse answered because… it turns out, you can’t make an appointment at 3:00 in the morning.
Despite my fog, I remember the next part pretty vividly. Here’s about how that conversation went…
Nurse: “Hi, this is ______. Can you tell me what’s going on?”
Me: “Yes, my 5 week old has had a cough and congestion this week and seems to be getting worse despite her breathing treatments. She just looks scared, if that makes any sense.”
Nurse: “Ok, does she have fever?”
Me: “No, that’s why I have just been watching her. I figured there was nothing we could do for her.”
Nurse: “Ok, is she having retractions*?”
Me: “Oh my God, I don’t know why I haven’t even thought to look. (Takes off the onesie). YES.” (Tears forming.)
Nurse: “Ok, what is her respiratory rate?”
Me: “Uh, let me count… (1, 2, 3… why did I not think to do this before?!?... 75, 76, 77….)… 82.. (I am so sorry, baby!)”
Nurse: “She needs to go to the emergency room, NOW.”
Me: (Yells for my husband to get dressed) Now hysterical: “I know! Thanks for your help!”
My husband took her to the ER, I stayed home with our 2 year old because I honestly couldn't drive safely at that point between my fatigue and sobbing. She gets admitted and immediately transferred to the ICU for respiratory distress. That was the beginning of the longest 2 weeks of my life.
Our programs worked with us so we could be there as much as we could. She had to have multiple IVs, tubes in her nose, tape on her face… alarms were going off all the time. We couldn’t hold her for several days because the type of breathing help she had would put water up her nose if you tilted her the wrong way. They had to check out her heart to make sure she didn't have some other problem since she was taking so long to get better. She couldn’t eat for a couple days because it made it too hard for her to breathe. After that, she had to be tube fed for awhile, then bottle fed pumped milk to make sure she was getting the proper amount.
It took her about 12 days to be able to get all the tubes out and out of the ICU. We spent one day on the regular floor before we were able to go home. After all of that, the only thing lasting was that she never breastfed again (I did choose to pump exclusively for her first year - OMG I hate pumping, the sound of the pump, everything about it.. to this day).
The day we got to go home (and back to work).
Why am I sharing this? Several reasons…
My beautiful girl, 5 years later!
I blamed myself for a long time for that, but I learned from it. My mother in law kept my third baby (born in January… the heart of the respiratory virus season, again… I apparently didn’t learn from that one) until our RSV numbers were minimal before he started at daycare. He made it through unscathed.
If you got nothing else out of this, wash your hands!