With 6 kids and a limited income, I’ve become an expert at researching my kids’ sicknesses and staying out of the doctor’s office whenever possible. Despite all the wonderful medical info online, I often find myself drawn to personal stories written by parents describing their experiences with their kids’ illnesses. Since we’ve experienced hospitalization with RSV, I thought it was my turn to write a story in hopes that it will be helpful to parents looking for answers.
Please note that I am a stay-at-home mom, not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor concerning your child’s illness.
Hudson :: Background
Hudson is my 6th child. He was born much like the rest… fat and healthy at full-term via a vaginal birth. He came home from the hospital right away with no issues. Unfortunately he was born in December and straight into flu season.
How it began
At 3 weeks Hudson became very congested which caused very noisy breathing. I figured it was just a cold. But when his temp went above the infamous 101 mark, I took him to the ER in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. Of course by the time they took his temp, it was down in normal range. They took a urine sample and hooked him up to the oxygen and heartrate monitors. Being that it was 3am, he quickly fell asleep. With nothing else to do, I watched the monitor and noticed that the oxygen saturation would occasionally fall to 88, even 87 once. This would sound an alarm but no one would come in the room. As the number went up, the alarm went away. This happened again and again. Finally I googled “oxygen saturation” and learned that a reading of 87 is very dangerous. I mentioned this to the nurse when she checked on him, but she told me it’s normal for O2 sats (as I learned they are called) to drop that low when infants sleep (this was not correct). We were discharged a few hours later and basically told those dreaded words, “it’s just a virus.” I felt like they were treating me like an over-reacting mom. I wanted to scream… and probably should have… I have 6 kids and I know what I’m doing. Why in the world would I come here at 3am and pay gobs of money if I didn’t think it was serious?!
When I started to worry
A day or 2 went by and I noticed Hudson was very sleepy and not feeding well. He was also spitting up all the time, which is unusual for my babies. His noisy breathing was still there and so was his fever. I remember looking down at him in my arms that morning and thinking he just doesn’t seem well. I started messaging some nurse friends of mine with some questions. One of them stopped by and looked at him. “They didn’t check him for RSV in the ER?” she asked. She seemed amazed by this. I really started to worry.
How I figured it out
Hearing about RSV set me off on a flurry of googling. That night as Hudson lay in my bed breathing loudly, I read everything I could find about RSV. I found some great YouTube videos (like this) that explained all the terms I was reading such as cyanosis and retractions. They explained that RSV can cause bronchiolitis, among other things (this video was very helpful). That night I barely slept as Hudson quickly deteriorated. From my research I learned to count his respirations. They were definitely above the limit. Using the light from my phone I looked for the retractions I’d learned about and noticed his sides sucking in around his ribs as he breathed. And I felt so dumb as I remembered that earlier that day the skin around his mouth had seemed bluish… and I’d just thought it was a newborn thing. I now know that he had all the signs of RSV and was entering respiratory distress.
When they finally took us seriously
The next morning we went to our pediatrician. As soon as they put on the oxygen monitor we all saw the reading… 88. There was a flurry of activity. They tested him for RSV (it was positive.) They put him on oxygen and then gave him a breathing treatment. Within an hour’s time I was driving him to be admitted at the hospital.
The hospital stay
Hudson spent 5 days in the hospital with RSV-caused bronchiolitis. Although it sounds very serious (and it was), the stay was very uneventful. He received IV fluids for 24 hours due to dehydration from poor feeding. He received oxygen through a nasal canula and they slowly weaned him off of it until he could keep his O2 levels at 97 and above for 4 hours. They also did deep nasal suctioning, which is just as violent as it sounds! Basically they were just supporting him as his own body recovered from the virus.
The good news
At discharge I was told that Hudson would very likely develop asthma and have frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. Although it took over 5 weeks to fully recover, he is now 14 months old and I’m happy to report that he has been mostly healthy. However, when he does develop a cold the doctor can hear some slight wheezing (I never can hear it.) After a few days of nebulizer treatments he is fine. We continue to monitor him closely and watch for signs of asthma, but I’ve been thrilled so far at his health!
What I learned
I am my child’s BEST advocate and so are you. I often wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t done so much research on my own. I could have easily assumed that the ER doctors had done a thorough exam and left it at that. So my advice to you is to follow your mother/father instinct and advocate for your child. As a PA friend recently told me… the doctor only sees your child for a small window of time. You have been with your child 24/7. You know best what their symptoms are and what is and isn’t normal for them. Don’t be embarrassed to go back to the doctor for the same issue. And be willing to get a second opinion if you’re not sure the first one was accurate or well-thought out. Doctors are just people who can miss things and make mistakes. You are the expert on your child.
I also purchased this pulse oximeter for use at home. Did I mention that I’m cheap and hate to go to the doctor? This has saved me many trips when I’ve just wanted to check his O2 levels.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading!