The events that took place in March of 2007 will forever be etched in my memory. Although these events were tragic, this is not a tragedy. It was a beautiful spring day and I had just picked up my son, David, from the lower school. As I sat in the carpool line at the middle school, waiting for my daughter, Lydia, I remember looking in the rear view mirror at my youngest son, Ian, sitting there with his little nose running and thinking to myself "it’s just his allergies." I didn’t give it a second thought. We went about our normal routine that day and the next day Ian seemed fine and we had a very busy weekend planned.
Saturday morning Ian woke up with a cough and I gave him a breathing treatment as I always do when he gets a wheezy cough. A few hours later we went to Wal-Mart. Ian was coughing again and had become very irritable. I finished my shopping and quickly checked out. I rushed home to give Ian another breathing treatment. Ian was okay for a while, but later that evening he needed another breathing treatment.
Everyone was pretty tired, so we went to bed early. Every couple of hours Ian woke up coughing. This was unusual, because his treatments normally last 4-6 hours. Finally, I called the nurse’s triage at Children’s Hospital. I told them Ian’s symptoms. They instructed me to give Ian back to back treatments. I gave Ian his first treatment, waited 30 minutes and gave him a second treatment. That bought us a few more hours of sleep. When we woke up around 7:30 am, Ian was coughing again and had begun breathing very fast. The skin around his mouth was turning pale blue. I decided to take Ian to the Mercy After Hours Clinic. When we got to clinic, I watched Ian closely while we waited. His breathing was labored. I let the receptionist know I didn’t think Ian was doing very well. She took one look at him and went to get the nurse to take his pulse ox. His blood oxygen level was only about 70%. They immediately took him back. A doctor started Ian on more breathing treatments using different medicines than what I had given him at home. When that didn’t work he gave Ian a couple of shots and put him on oxygen. They finally got his pulse ox level to about 90%, but every time they took him off of the oxygen it would drop. When there was nothing else they could do, the doctor called Baptist Hospital’s ER and let them know that we were on our way. I went straight there. When we arrived, they were waiting for us with a room ready. There were doctors and nurses taking his vitals, doing breathing treatments and running tests to see what was making Ian so sick. The flu test came back negative. The strep test came back negative. They took an x-ray of his chest and it showed a little pneumonia in one lung, but not enough to make him this sick. They wanted to keep him overnight.
Ian was moved to the pediatric floor. There we met Dr. Sigler, the doctor on call that night. As she read through the charts and checked Ian, her smile slowly faded and a look of concern came over her face. She called in Dr. Kichi from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. They took blood gases to figure out what to do next. It only took about fifteen minutes for the results to come back. The carbon dioxide levels in Ian’s blood were high. Dr. Sigler and Dr. Kichi agreed the next step was to intubate him and put him in a drug induced coma. I remember clearly Dr. Sigler’s exact words, "If we don’t do this Ian’s heart and lungs will give out from having to work so hard." That statement was so over whelming, I just broke down and cried. Dr. Sigler could see how distraught Jon and I were and asked if she could pray with us. We prayed and they quickly took Ian away.
A couple of hours later, we were able to see Ian again. He looked totally different and was finally sleeping peacefully. He had tubes coming out of his nose, mouth, arms and legs. The machines and drugs were doing all of his breathing and operating his body for him. Nurses were constantly in and out checking on him. The next morning, a gentleman in scrubs came into Ian’s room. He was so quiet and gentle as he did his auscultation, palpations and percussions. His movements were very fluid. When he was finished he introduced himself as Dr. Griggs. His seven day shift had begun that morning and he would be taking care of Ian while he was in the PICU.
Every morning, when Dr. Griggs came by to do his rounds, he gathered his staff: the nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists and residents. They went over Ian’s situation thoroughly. On Wednesday morning, he let us know that one of the labs tests confirmed Ian had RSV - Respiratory Syncytial Virus. He explained to us that normally, RSV only adversely affects premature babies. When older kids and adults get it, it’s usually like a common cold. The infection had gone into Ian’s blood. He decided to give Ian a blood transfusion and let his body rest at least five more days.
The next five days were very long. It was so hard watching Ian lay in that bed. His little body was so swollen and I could smell the sickness every time I bent over to kiss him. I missed hearing his little voice so much. Ian finally started to get better. Dr. Griggs decided to slowly wean him off of the machines and the drugs. Ian spent a few more days in the hospital and then was released home. He was back to his normal, energetic self in about a month. Emotionally, it took me a lot longer to get over it.
The following October, I was watching a news story about a woman whose two year old son had developed a bad cough. She took him to his pediatrician and he sent her home with some cough medicine. When he didn’t get better, she took him to the emergency room. They said it was just the croup and sent her home. The next day, while taking her older children to school, she looked in her rear view mirror at her son in his car seat. His face had turned blue and he wasn’t breathing. He had died. This hit so close to home. My heart broke for this woman. Her story sounded so much like mine, but it was so different. I wondered why the doctors didn’t recognize the symptoms her little boy had. At that very moment, I realized how blessed I was to have wonderful doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save Ian’s life. I am even more blessed to still have Ian!