I replay in my mind the first time my pediatrician told me that my twin boys, Alexander and Dominic, were born each weighing just under five pounds – “a healthy weight for twins,” he said. My boys were considered full-term when they were born at 36 weeks and two days, did not require time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and were even healthy enough to be discharged from the hospital before I was! For the next 11 months, Alexander and Dominic were relatively healthy and illness-free. Then, a week before their first birthday, every parent’s worst nightmare became our reality.
Alexander developed a cold, began exhibiting signs of fatigue, and felt slightly feverish, so we took him to the emergency room as a precautionary measure. In the emergency room, we found out Alexander had a severe case of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) disease, and was transferred in a pediatric ambulance to Scottish Rite Hospital where he then needed to be airlifted to Egleston Children’s Hospital right away. While in flight, Alexander lost brain function and was placed on life support – he later passed away.
At the same time, Alexander’s twin, Dominic, was also diagnosed with RSV. His infection was also severe and required intense treatment throughout an 11-day hospital stay, including oxygen therapy for ten days and breathing treatments that he continued once discharged. Thankfully, he remains healthy to this day.
When I finally had a moment to gather my thoughts, I realized that, until both of my sons contracted RSV, I didn’t understand the complications of the virus and how dangerous it can be. RSV is a common, seasonal virus that in many babies leads to a mild respiratory infection with symptoms similar to the common cold or flu.
However, RSV, can also develop into a much more serious infection, particularly for premature babies. Since my sons were deemed full-term at birth, they were not considered at high risk for severe RSV disease, which is why I wasn’t alerted of this danger.
Based on my personal experience, I’ve made it my personal mission to make other parents aware of the preventive measures they can take to help keep their children healthy and what questions to ask their pediatrician. Based on this experience, I knew to take steps to ensure my next two children born after Dominic and Alexander did not become seriously ill from RSV.
Simple steps you can take to minimize exposure to RSV, include:
1. Wash your hands frequently, along with toys and clothes as RSV can live on surfaces for several hours.
2. Steer clear of people who are sick as RSV spreads easily through human contact.
3. Avoid crowded areas during RSV season (eg, malls or grocery stores).
4. Ask your child’s pediatrician if he or she may be at high risk and ways you can help protect your baby.