To parents in the know, there are few acronyms that make one’s heart sink faster than “RSV.”
Respiratory syncytial virus is an everyday virus that gives adults and most children no more than the sniffles. When it comes to young infants, especially preemies, the disease can ravage their lungs, and even prove fatal. I’ve heard that many parents of triplets and more put their infants on complete lock-down to protect them during their first flu season. In order to keep their home RSV-free, they keep family and friends alike away until the weather warms up.
We were fortunate to have health insurance that covered Synagis, the RSV shot, our daughters’ first year. Decision-makers in the military health care system deemed that RSV was a high enough risk for our daughters, 7 weeks premature, to cover the monthly thousand-dollar shot. Every month for 7 months, I took our tiny daughters to the one clinic in Central Texas that carried the antibody shot. They learned to start screaming at the sight of Candy, the lovely nurse who innoculated what seemed to be all the multiples in town.
J and M contracted RSV their second winter. They were relatively sturdy at 18 months of age, and didn’t require hospitalization. Still, I was out of work caring for them for nearly a month. I have documented the rest of the girls’ lives in excruciating detail, but I have no photos or blog posts from that time. Even my memories are minimal, just hazy impressions of fear even deeper than I usually felt during the months my husband was at war. The one clear memory I had was of calling my neighbour Heidi over. She was our only neighbour who was neither elderly nor a parent. I asked her to monitor the girls’ breathing so I could take my first shower in a week; J had thrown up on me. I will never be able to repay her for not only giving me peace of mind during those moments alone under the hot water, but also cleaning J’s vomit off the floor. Her husband was also in Iraq at the time.
M and J continued to suffer aftereffects of RSV for another 3 years. Only recently were we able to permanently (we hope) retire their nebulizer and put breathing treatments behind us.
This week, I learned that a coworker’s 3-month-old was on a ventilator because of complications from RSV. The last update I received was that she had been extubated and is tolerating a nasal cannula. She has been weaned off the meds that were keeping her sedated and is now moving and crying. If all goes well, she should be home from the hospital in a couple of weeks.
What can one say to a parent whose child is in the pediatric intensive care unit? The only words of comfort I had were of sympathy. It seemed out of place to tell her that M and J, after 3 long years, had finally overcome the setback of RSV.
Update, 9:36 am CST
My friend emailed to say, “Good news today! She’s off of both oxygen and pain meds. They want to watch her today to ensure that she continues to do all right without them. If so, we get to go home tomorrow!”
Have you dealt with RSV? Do you have words of comfort for my coworker and her husband?