I felt all of the cords between my fingers as I held our 15-month old in the stiff green hospital chair a little before 3 a.m. I was incredibly worried and couldn’t help but wonder, how could a runny nose turn into this?
As parents of a preschooler and a baby, my husband and I have seen our fair share of early childhood illnesses. Our pediatrician forewarned us that it’s unfortunately completely normal for kiddos to get sick when they start school for the first time. As a stay-at-home mom living in a COVID bubble for most of my oldest daughter’s infancy and toddler years, I was unprepared for the intensity of preschool germs. Vitamins and Zarbees baby cough syrup could not hold a candle to those vicious bugs. It was a tough few months of constant colds and ear infections.
According to Nipunie S. Rajapakse, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Minnesota, “babies, toddlers and preschoolers can have as many as 12 colds a year and still be normal” (source: Mayo clinic). In the fall, our household was battling a revolving merry-go-round of illnesses, so we were not overly concerned about our 15-month-old having a runny nose with no fever. The fall of 2022 marked the beginning of a tripledemic. Although her cold symptoms seemed minor, the slow start of RSV can be quite misleading.
A few days later when our baby started wheezing in the early hours of the morning, I called her pediatrician and she advised a prompt visit to Urgent Care. At Urgent Care they checked her oxygen levels, and we were sent to the ER around the corner. When we arrived at the hospital, our baby was quickly seen. After a multitude of tests, our 15-month-old was diagnosed with a severe form of RSV and bronchiolitis.
The doctor explained we were being admitted to the hospital, and I thought my knees would buckle beneath me. As the medical team held down our 15-month-old in a burrito wrap for deep suctioning, her tears made me cry too. I comforted our baby and reached out to our small group for prayer.
When our PICU room was ready, an incredibly kind nurse pushed us on the hospital bed upstairs as I held our sleeping daughter on my chest. A 3 a.m., I sat upright holding our coughing baby in the stiff green hospital chair. When her oxygen dipped to the 60s during a sleep assessment, she turned blue from head to toe. Her nurse rushed into the room and put her back on oxygen.
I had no control over this unbelievably frightening situation, and I felt powerless. I couldn’t sleep. I was a bucket of tears. I read my Bible with the glow from the hospital machines, no additional light needed. I did not need to carry the overwhelming weight of my fear alone. The presence of Jesus comforted me when nothing else could. With every inch of my being, I want to protect my children from every illness, from every bump and scrape, and any kind of discomfort and pain, yet no matter what they face, I can rest in God’s immeasurable love for my children. The depths of love He has for them and for all of us is beyond my comprehension and understanding.
I knew this experience was a mile-marker in our journey as a family of four. A road sign in my memory banks of motherhood will always read, “the road of control leads to nowhere, trust in Him.” While I’m still processing all of this many months later, I continue to dwell on the blessing and gift that modern medicine is and the comfort of Jesus in that hospital room. I had no power or ability to find a cure for RSV as much as I wanted to be a doctor at that moment. He was and always will be the Protector of my children.
My daughter started to improve several days later. Our phone never stopped ringing with support from our loved ones. Meals were delivered when we returned home. We are so grateful for the encouragement and help from our wonderful family and community.
Our baby continued to remain on oxygen at home after we were discharged from the hospital. Each day she grew stronger, and she is perfectly healthy now. While I still feel a twinge of worry in my body when my children have a cough and runny nose, I speak truth over myself that God is forever in control.