RSV

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?

4 thoughts on “RSV

  1. Our b/g twins are 2 1/2 years old and were 34 week preemies. THat was obviously a while ago, but they just got RSV and our son was hospitalized for 5 days with low oxygen saturation. They are saying this reaction to RSV, along with his eczema and seasonal allergies is looking a lot like asthma.

    Our daughter had a bad cough and that is it.

    I have to be honest that I freak out thinking how awful this would have been should he have had it as an infant.

    Just be there for your friend.

  2. My older son had RSV, at the advanced age of 3. At first I thought it was a very bad long lasting cold and he would get over it. That was my biggest rookie parent mistake. Maybe others can learn from it. He was showing symptoms of being lethargic, which turned out to be low oxygen, and this was discovered at the peds office. From there he went by ambulance to the hospital, where he stayed for 4 days on the nebulizer, isolated, while treated for this horrible RSV. Don’t play games with bad colds, and for sure I am WAY more quick to have my twins seen than I ever was as a rookie parent. If they show any lethargic behavior or rapid breathing with any cold, they must be seen right away.
    RSV is so scary! I would encourage your friend she can get through it , thank goodness for the nebulizer and other meds making that possible.

  3. Three letters put together that I hate. Last year my oldest son, 2.5 at the time came home with Croup, which turned into RSV for my twins, then 5 weeks old. Thankfully, they were not preemie and were pretty strong. However, my boy (also how I learned the term “wimpy boy syndrome”) contracted it the worst. I spent 9 days in pediatric ICU (PICU). It was terrible…Because we live in a smaller town, I’d taken my son to the closest ER. They knew immediately he needed to be hospitalized and transported us over an hour away via ambulance. Thankfully, I used to live in the town where the hospital was so I relied on friends to bring me clothes, use their shower, and moral support. I never heard of this disease until last Winter and it scarred me more than anything. Separated over a week from your family and one twin was so hard. My hubby couldn’t even visit for contamination, and because he had to keep watch over the other two kids. Thankfully everyone overcame it and with no lasting effects, but we don’t mess around with colds anymore either. RSV IS scary…

  4. See, THIS is what people don’t understand about having preemies! Ours are 17 months now and their cousin (5 months old) currently has RSV. The parents were getting their feelings hurt because we wouldn’t even allow their older child anywhere near our twins. Apparently the baby just has the “bad cold” but they don’t understand that there can be (unseen) lasting effects of prematurity and the last people I am going to test that out on are my precious twins. And even if they hadn’t been preemies, I don’t want my kids getting RSV! Are you kidding me???

    As for your friend, I would try to take her some food if you are close enough. It meant so much to me when people brought me food when my girls were in the NICU. If you can’t do that, moral support. She’ll get through this.

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