In the last few months, the combination of COVID-19, RSV, and flu, otherwise known as tripledemic, has been causing an unprecedented spike in the number of cases of respiratory infection in children.
Given the surge in respiratory infections in children, I felt the need to share the story of my son’s battle with RSV in 2019.
On Dec. 16, my then 13-month-old son developed a fever. He was pale and breathing fast. Worried, I took him to his pediatrician, who immediately sent us to the Emergency Department at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Within hours my son was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and intubated. Yes, he had preexisting conditions, including several surgeries at the same hospital, but he had been healthy and happily playing just the day before he got sick. Even accounting for his medical issues, I thought that he would get better soon. I was not prepared for what would come next.
My ray of light was fading in front of me. The care team was expanding exponentially, while the hope of recovery was shrinking with every passing hour. Soon, almost all departments were directly or indirectly involved in discussions and care. Yet, within a week of hospitalization, my son was experiencing multiple organ failure.
On Dec. 24, my husband and I were invited to the PICU conference room. We were delivered the news that no parent ever wants to hear: our son was dying. There were a couple of risky options left to try. We knew that we could be choosing between quality and quantity of life and stepping into an unknown territory. Nonetheless, for us as parents, there was indeed no choice. We needed to give our son every chance possible by agreeing to aggressive treatment options. The conversation ended with the care team looking at us with sorrow and urging us not to leave his room for more than 20 minutes if we wanted to have the opportunity of “the last goodbye”.
My husband and I returned to our son’s room in silence. He was there, unconscious, with numerous medications and medical equipment attached to him. I mechanically approached his bed, held his little hand, and started singing and talking to him. I wanted him to hear my voice, to know that I was with him until his last breath. I wanted him to feel that I would love him to death and beyond. On the night of Dec. 25, the tides turned; after the combination of treatments my son finally showed signs of improvement.
My little miracle boy would be intubated and unconscious for 23 days. I knew his muscles were breaking down and he might not be able to move after recovery. I knew his brain was substantially damaged. I knew that many factors negatively affected him, and I did not know how he would survive and what quality of life he would have. I still don’t know.
But today, despite all our past worries, he moves and runs so fast that sometimes I struggle to catch him. He also shows a great deal of understanding, giving us hope that one day he will overcome the conditions caused by RSV in 2019. Of course, all health and developmental gains come with Herculean efforts, discipline, research, discussions with professionals, numerous medical procedures, and many sacrifices. But, at every step of this long journey, the Children’s Hospital of Colorado and its amazing medical team have been with us, tirelessly working on his treatments, survival, and well-being.
Today, as hospitals around the country and, in particular, Children’s Hospital of Colorado, experience a surge of patients with respiratory illnesses, physicians, nurses, technicians, and everyone else are pulling long hours, going through over-exhaustion, and doing everything possible to save children’s lives. I will be eternally grateful to each and every one of those superheroes for their continuous hard work, commitment, and sacrifices.
Yeva Aleksanyan is a Ph.D. in Economics and a mother of twins. In addition to studying the economics of gender and healthcare, she writes about growing up during the war in Armenia, and resilience in the face of adversity.
To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.