Our recent experience with RSV

November 14, 2022, Tiffany Newman

It has been a little while since I wrote a blog, but the month of October was full of unexpected and scary moments for my family. If you have been watching or reading the news, you have probably heard of RSV. RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is a common cold-like virus that usually is very mild for most people. However, it can be severe or even deadly in infants, young children, and older adults.

My oldest boy Carson came down with a cold and was home from daycare for almost an entire week. He was coughing, had lots of mucus, and was not feeling his usual self. We tried everything we could to keep Carson away from Caleb, but he loves to give Caleb hugs and kisses, so it was very challenging. It felt inevitable that Caleb was going to catch his cold. And that is exactly what happened. The day Carson felt better was when Caleb started coming down with a cold. We tried making sure he was comfortable and keeping his temperature down as best we could with medication, but his symptoms kept getting worse. Two days later, Caleb stopped being interested in his bottle, food, or even wanting to do anything. He seemed extremely lethargic and not interested in staying awake for more than an hour or so. His breathing seemed to become more rapid and sounded wheezy. We were not sure what to do because in the past when Caleb had gotten sick, he seemed to have this wheezing issue which we would use albuterol and steroids to control while his body was fighting whatever cold he had at the moment. However, in those past scenarios, he was always up and chipper for the most part.

We were rapidly getting more concerned, so we tried to get ahold of our pediatrician to see what we needed to do. When that failed, we called a family member who is a nurse and asked her if we should take him to the Emergency Room. She said that we should, so we grabbed a few things, both boys, and drove to the ER in Corvallis. Once we got there, we waited for about 10 minutes before being brought back into a room. Unfortunately, only I was allowed to go with Caleb, so it was a challenge to communicate what was happening with my husband and figure out what we needed to do since Carson also needed to go to bed. The nurses came in and checked his vitals and oxygen levels. His temperature was extremely high still, even though we had given him Tylenol a little while before going into the ER. His oxygen levels were not good, somewhere in the high 80s. They put Caleb on oxygen to get his oxygen levels back up and evaluate him a bit more. The nurses then needed to take a swab from his nose to ensure he didn’t have COVID and to see if something else was detected. They then took an x-ray of his chest because of the wheezing that was occurring.

A short time later, they got results from the swab, and it was determined that he had RSV. The pediatrician also came in and told us that the x-ray showed a darker spot on his lungs that might be pneumonia, causing the wheezing and rapid breathing. At that point, they were determining whether or not to admit him to the hospital.

Image of the letters RSV surrounded by oxygen mask, and medicationsAt about midnight that night, they decided to admit him to the hospital because his levels would drop significantly every time he was taken off oxygen. Luckily, because they knew it was RSV, they knew how to treat it. Corvallis hospital had no beds available, so they put us in an ambulance and sent us to the hospital in Albany. Upon arrival, we got to the room, and they only had beds for adults, or at least that was all we were given. Caleb settled in, and they tried to get his IV hooked up and oxygen on him. Sadly, the IV they placed did not hold, so they could not get fluids in him that night. We were able to get a small amount in him through a bottle, but it was not enough to do much good. The next day my husband came to the Albany hospital after dropping Carson off at daycare to allow me to rest and shower. I returned that afternoon to get an update and spend more time with Caleb. They did another x-ray and put him on antibiotics to hopefully get rid of the pneumonia. We kept trying to take him off oxygen to see him when his levels would stabilize, but they kept falling. At that point, they decided it would be better if he were sent up to one of the children’s hospitals in Portland.

Photo of an ambulance with lights on driving away on a multilane road.Caleb took another ambulance ride up to Randall’s Children’s Hospital and was admitted to the ICU. Here he was placed in a crib and had all kinds of wires hooked up to him. The nurses evaluated his oxygen levels and breathing, and they finally got an IV in him, which he desperately needed. They used an ultrasound to find his vein, and it took only one poke to get it in and set up. They also gave him steroids and albuterol every two to four hours and sucked out as much mucous from his nose as they could (which was a lot!). They continued this process the rest of the time we were in the hospital. At Randall’s, they did one last x-ray, and because they were not 100% sure it was pneumonia, they put Caleb on a different antibiotic to try and get rid of anything it could have been. Luckily this was through an IV because, by this point, Caleb hated taking any kind of medicine, and it was getting much more challenging to get him to take anything from a syringe. One of the days, Caleb kept having these coughing fits that seemed to last a long time, and during this, his heart rate would shoot up so much it scared me AND the nurses.

The pediatrician told us that between days 4-6, things tend to get worse, and then suddenly, things switch and get over quickly. Let me tell you, the doctors and nurses have seen this frequently because that was exactly what happened. One day he was coughing and not wanting to move. The next day he was chatty, wanting to try and play and starting to get interested in eating food again. This was such a relief!

Small toddler or a baby child playing with puzzle shapes on a low table in a colorful children room in a nursery or preschool.By day six of being in the hospital, Caleb’s oxygen levels began to be more stable when taken off the oxygen, and he was starting to move around and eat. Because of this, they transferred him from the ICU to the floor. Luckily, he could be off most of the monitors once on the floor and move around a little more. He was also eating a ton! By day seven, he was released from the hospital, and we could take him home. He was still on antibiotics for the potential pneumonia, and he did end up with an ear infection that lasted a while, but other than that, he is fully back to being his wonderful self.

We were so thankful for the support from our families and friends who helped us through this challenging time!


More RSV information:
RSV in Infants and Young Children

El VRS en los bebés y niños pequeños