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RSV Surge and the Holidays

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Tis’ the season for holiday celebrations with family and friends…


...and RSV.


RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus and it can be a very serious illness and even life threatening for babies.


Photo of baby, Brooks, in the NICU due to RSV
Brooks in the NICU due to RSV

NPR made the following statement in an article published on November 2nd:


“The unusually high number of RSV infections so early in the year are already pushing hospitals to capacity. In normal years, RSV sends thousands of children to the hospital over fall and winter, but for the second year in a row experts have seen an unprecedented spike in the number of cases beginning during the summer months.”


Public health officials warn that this winter there could be a "tripledemic” from influenza, Covid-19, and RSV.


Bonsie Skin to Skin Babywear spoke with Leah Miller, mother of three, about her terrifying experience with RSV. Due to the current surge of this illness and the many pressures that new parents feel during the holidays, we want to share her story and her words of encouragement.


In 2020, Leah’s second son, Brooks, caught RSV when he was two months old. His family had a couple friends over to watch football and then Leah received a call that one of the children who came over had RSV. Just a few days later Brooks was in the hospital fighting for his life.


“Brooks was struggling to breath and maintained a high fever, even with round the clock meds. We took him to the ER on a Friday night to have him evaluated and they deep suctioned him and gave us a 7 day script to the ROC for anytime he started to get gunked up. We went home that night and I stayed up with him all night, holding him. I even have photos of him I took because he looked so pale. His fever that night climbed to 105 degrees, but we survived it.


I remember vividly holding him on the couch in our living room the next morning. I looked at my husband and said that I texted my parents to come over asap. We need to take Brooks back to the ER. He seemed shocked because Brooks appeared to be the same; I said you just have to trust me on this. I know something is really wrong.”


With just the clothes on their back, Danny, Leah, and Brooks returned to the emergency room with no idea that they wouldn’t return home for over a week.


“The respiratory therapist took one quick look over Brooks and said we are going to admit him right away. Once back in the room they realized how quickly he was declining…”

Brooks was then taken by ambulance to another hospital for more intensive care.


Brooks was on the highest flow of oxygen while in the NICU, IV fed, and he had deep suctioning every few hours. A therapist regularly did chest percussion to break up the glue-like mucus.


He also had to have deep suctioning done so frequently that his nostrils bled and became so swollen that they had to take a break. Brooks lost his voice from crying so hard from the discomfort and pain during this treatment.


During that week Brooks lost 11 pounds; almost half of his total weight. If he didn’t start to improve, intubation was the next step.


That was the week of his scheduled baptism, so Leah called her priest to cancel and explain how sick Brooks was; the priest asked Leah if he needed to come and read Brooks his last rights. Brooks was that sick.


If you are a parent, we don’t need to explain how truly horrifying this life changing event was for Leah and her husband, Danny. Parents often feel completely helpless when their babies are sick, and Leah will never forget the long moments she spent sitting in the NICU, watching her newborn baby struggle to overcome RSV while surrounded by several other newborn babies in the same fight.


Brooks and his dad, Danny, in the NICU
Brooks and his dad, Danny, in the NICU

When Brooks finally got to go home, he had to see his pediatrician once a week for over a month because he lost so much weight and was weak from his battle with RSV. Leah feels so grateful that today there are no lingering effects. Many babies are not so lucky and develop asthma or other challenges.


According to NPR, Health officials suggest the following precautions to help your family stay healthy:

  • Wash hands!

  • Disinfect surfaces.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Keep your hands away from your face.

  • Keep children, especially children under one, away from anyone who isn’t feeling well or has been recently sick.

  • Stay updated on vaccines.

  • Remember that a minor cold for an adult could be a serious case of RSV for a baby.


Today, Leah has no reservations about being cautious around the holidays and advocating for other new parents.


“It took this incident for me to find my voice,” Leah said in an interview with Bonsie.

Leah and Brooks in the NICU
Leah and Brooks in the NICU

Leah shared these words on her Instagram page and we’d like to share them with our readers as well:


“RSV season is upon us and with all the big holidays approaching I feel it is so important to remind people to be sensitive to those families of littles and anybody that is a new parent. There is nothing scarier than when your child gets sick, especially when they are a baby. The sense of hopelessness and lack of control is gut wrenching when you have to watch your child suffer with this illness.


Three years ago our little Brooks caught RSV and could have lost his life. Regardless of how much time has passed there is still so much trauma and baggage that comes with the days spent in the NICU while he fought for his life. So, I urge everyone, if someone sets boundaries and doesn’t feel comfortable coming for the holidays because it’s a large setting, or they don’t let you hold your baby and love on them, it is not something to take personally. These people are just parents advocating for their babies' lives to stay healthy and happy.


Leah and Danny with their children: Brooks, Evelyn, and Brian
Leah and Danny with their children: Brooks, Evelyn, and Brian

I wouldn’t wish what we went through on even my worst enemy, but we put our faith in God and we made it through stronger than ever. So many things these days divide us all as a community, but let’s not let this be one of them. Let’s all stand together and be a voice for these babies.”


To see Leah’s post advocating for RSV awareness follow her Instagram account @lcmiller12.


Sources:

Romo, V. (2022, November 2).

RSV is surging. Here's what to watch for and answers about treatment options. NPR https://www.npr.org/2022/11/02/1133040571/rsv-questions-answers-treatment-options


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