This photo is of our little baby D under her oxygen hood. This was towards the end of a very worrying, week-long stay in hospital with her when she developed bronchiolitis. Before we go on here’s the explanation of bronchiolitis from the NHS web site.
Bronchiolitis is a common lower respiratory tract infection that affects babies and young children under two years old.
Most cases are mild and clear up without the need for treatment within two to three weeks, although some children have severe symptoms and need hospital treatment.
The early symptoms of bronchiolitis are similar to those of a common cold, such as a runny nose and cough.
Further symptoms then usually develop over the next few days, including:
- a slight high temperature (fever)
- a dry and persistent cough
- difficulty feeding
- rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing)
As you can see from the photo she is still a little baby – she wasn’t quite 5 months old. It started with her coughing and breathing differently and the GP sent us straight to the paediatric ward at the local hospital. I can still vividly remember getting the phone call from Helen and dropping everything instantly at work to rush there. She didn’t seem too bad to me but the doctors weren’t happy with her breathing and soon diagnosed bronchiolitis – something neither Helen or I had ever heard of. What could have been seen as a simple cold turned out to be something far more serious.
Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus known as the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is spread through tiny droplets of liquid from the coughs or sneezes of someone who’s infected. The infection causes the smallest airways in the lungs (the bronchioles) to become infected and inflamed. The inflammation reduces the amount of air entering the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
Before we knew it she was in a private room and in a cot with a oxygen hood over her whole body. We were really scared, that feeling will never leave me. The doctors and nurses (especially the nurses) were really great though and reassured us that she would make a full recovery. Apparently 1 in 3 children in the UK will develop bronchiolitis in their first year which highlights just how common in babies it is.
With two older children to care for Helen and I tagged-teamed staying with D at the hospital, including sleeping on a pull-out bed alongside her cot. I have stark memories of getting very little sleep, especially as the nurses came to do hourly observations and as quiet as they tried to be I wasn’t sleeping deeply enough to miss them. I also remember the sleepy midnight trips to the little kitchenette to warm her bottles and bumping into other, equally tired and emotional, parents. In all we did this for nine days.
My company I worked for at the time was incredibly supportive and I later discovered that although I had claimed dependants leave (i.e. unpaid leave to care for a dependant) they still paid me my usual salary. I’ve always been lucky to work for companies who understand working parents and their greater needs and responsibilities, especially in times of crisis.
D did indeed make a full recovery after a week on pure oxygen. There’s no medication to kill the virus that causes bronchiolitis so this treatment was all they could do to ensure her oxygen levels were kept in balance while her breathing was affected. It was a waiting game, a very worrying waiting game at that.
Today I look at 9 year old D and sometimes forget that this virus she once had caused us so much worry. She’s now a fit and healthy song and dance mad young girl with a smile that can light up any room. She even gets picked to represent her school and most sport, even cross-country running so clearly her lungs are working perfectly. Sometimes memories aren’t necessarily great ones but they are still worthwhile to look back on so you appreciate what you have.
Thanks for reading.
I need to give a shout out to David over at dadvworld.com because he asked me how long I’d been blogging in a reply to my comment on one of his posts. This led me down a path of trying to figure out the true answer. One thing led to another I and was down the rabbit hole and in the past when I came across the photo at the top of this post.