It sucks. It takes every ounce of liveliness and happiness out of your child and puts you on anxiety-filled high alert. Respiratory Syncytial Virus is a highly contagious disease that presents itself as a common cold in the majority of children infected. But in a number of infants who become infected with RSV, it becomes something much worse. I can only thank God that, unlike every other baby we know who has been infected, our sweet child never had to be hospitalized. Though this was only a tiny consolation in the nightmare that was our experience.
Poor Violet came down with a fever on our way home from Portland Saturday evening and we figured she was just coming down with a bug that would be out of her system within the next day or two. But we figured wrong. She spent Sunday in a feverish fog, refusing to eat or drink much of anything and wanting only to spend time in mommy's arms. I decided to forgo the invitation to our neighbors' for BBQ ribs and the Superbowl and let Joe and the kids go without me. My baby needed me. I was sure she'd be feeling fine by Monday.
Though I was sadly mistaken... again. In fact she seemed to be getting worse as she developed a cough and woke up with mucous cemented to her face that drained all night from her nose. Her fever was responding only slightly to tylenol and ibuprofen and would fluctuate between 100.5 and 104 at all times. By Tuesday (day 3) things were looking pretty grim and my nursing skills set in as I watched her every breath and became concerned that she just didn't "sound" right.
I sent a video to my best friend who became immediately worried that she was showing signs of RSV (which she dealt with 8 years prior, having an infant son who was hospitalized for it) and convinced me to at least put a call in to the pediatric advise nurse. So at 12:15 p.m. I received a call-back from the advice nurse and began listing Violet's symptoms. She didn't even let me finish, I was in the middle of doing an impression of my poor baby's breathing pattern when she interrupted me and said "so... we need to get her in to be seen right away... how soon can you be here?"
I dropped everything and tried not to panic as I packed up the girls and headed to the pediatrician's office. I held my lethargic, feverish, grunting baby in my arms and prayed for the best. As a nurse, I knew she wasn't showing signs of low oxygenation (blue lips, pale/blue coloring) but it didn't mean she wasn't infected and I was scared. The doctor did a thorough examination and in the process asked if she had had any ear infections in the past. To which I answered "no, none of my children ever have..." And seeing as how Violet had shown no signs or symptoms of one in the case of this current illness (had she just been too lethargic to care??) I wouldn't have assumed one now. So it came as a surprise when the doctor said "well she has a mild one in her right ear so we'll need to treat that as well." She went on to listen to her lungs and became concerned that a pneumonia was possibly developing (apparently a common consequence of RSV.) Though her oxygen levels were within normal limits it was apparent that something was attacking my poor child and the doctor's concern was comforting. She told me briefly her concerns that Violet was infected with RSV and asked for permission to administer the test to verify. I held my sick baby as she screamed in horror and discomfort when the swab was pushed to the back of her throat for 10 seconds (the longest 10 seconds ever when you're restraining your child's arms and watching her scream.) Then it didn't take long for the doctor to return with the result I hadn't wanted to hear.
"She tested positive for RSV."
The next days went by on high alert and she seemed to stay steady with no decline or improvement. By Thursday we had gone 5 days without a single minute of normal body temperature. I was still concerned. I was told to give it one more day (by the advice nurse who consulted her physician) which seemed to be the magic number. She woke up Friday with a temp of 99.5 and I wanted to cautiously rejoice. I knew she would take some time to fully recover but I felt like she was finally on her way. And she wanted nothing more than to feel like herself again. Every time she thought she felt good enough to get down and finally play, I'd find her minutes later curled and cuddled up on the floor. By Saturday her energy level was increasing and her appetite was beginning to return and by Sunday she nearly seemed to be herself. I was beginning to see that we were on our way to looking back on it as one of the worst weeks of her life.
And though no good could come from being sick and infected with such a serious virus, I cherished and enjoyed every single moment I held her in my arms. My heart ached for her and I felt her pain, but a small part of me was loving how much she needed to be held and snuggled. But it doesn't mean I didn't revel in the return of this sweet smiling face...
Be gone with you RSV, we hope never to see your ugliness in our home again...