It’s been two years since our family was forever changed by Respiratory Syncial Virus (RSV). Two years since I spent 5 days at Nationwide Children’s Hospital clutching to a little boy who was fighting for his life. Two years since I went through every single emotion a mother could possibly experience: anger, guilt, fear, confusion, desperation. Two years since I vowed to myself, and my child that I would do everything in my power to prevent other families from experiencing what we did.

Let’s travel back to December 2016 when our youngest son, Adam, was only six weeks old. (The asterisks I place throughout this article symbolize annotations that I will later explain.)

Like many families, Adam had older siblings who were in preschool. My oldest son, Luke was 3-years old when he came home around Thanksgiving with a nasty cough. He ran a low grade fever, and when I took him to the pediatrician’s office I was told he had a virus and it would pass.

Well, it did pass… down to his younger sister Eden (2-years old). It hit Eden a little harder than Luke. She ran a fever for several days and had vomiting with her congestion. I remember specifically asking about Adam at the pediatrician’s office and I was told to keep breastfeeding him and isolate him as much as possible*1.

Now, I want to put this into perspective for people who are not parents or perhaps have been far from the toddler/baby age. I have a newborn baby and a 3 and a 2-year old who are very sick and want nothing but their mommy. I am sleep deprived and worn to the core from cleaning blowouts, vomit, phlegm. I’m also trying to not to adjust to the new family dynamics of three children. I’m not making excuses, simply trying to paint the picture of a mother trying to survive. I did everything in my power to protect Adam, I need to constantly remind myself of that, because 2-years later… I still feel the guilt.

Adam was diagnosed with RSV at 6 weeks old. He tested positive at the doctor’s office. “Mrs. Ireland, your son has RSV, take him home and watch him.”*2 I stared at the tech, I had never heard of RSV before.

After a long 24 hours at home, Adam wasn’t improving so I rushed him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where we spent 5 terrifying days. I watched my baby fight for his life and felt every single emotion imaginable*3.

Fast forward to today, Adam fully recovered and is a perfectly happy and healthy 2-year old child. He’s full of life and personality. But that’s not the reason why I’m here today. I’m revisiting this scary time of our lives to share what I wish I would have known and what I’ve since learned about RSV.

What I wish I would have known:

  1. *Isolate him as much as possible: When I was at the pediatrician’s office with my older two children, I wish they would have offered more information about possible viruses (like RSV) that could pose a real danger to Adam during that period of time.
  2. * Take him home and watch him: When Adam tested positive for RSV, I was told to go home and watch him. At the time, I had no idea what I was supposed to be watching. There was no explanation. They didn’t show me examples of labored, belly breathing or what a child in distress looks like. There were no visuals, and no real examples provided. I wish I would have known what to watch for. I wish I would have known a trip to the hospital was more than likely in our future. I wish I would have known it wouldn’t be a quick trip to the hospital. I wish I would have known that RSV spikes by day 5-7. I wish I would have known the cough would linger for several weeks, perhaps months. I realize this is not the case for every RSV parent, but my reality was filled with lots of holes.
  3. * Feeling every emotion imaginable: I felt a tremendous amount of fear, anxiety, desperation and guilt with Adam’s diagnosis. How did we go from having a slight cough to being hooked up to machines and oxygen and fighting for our lives in a matter of hours? How did my baby almost lose his life to a virus I had never even heard or before? There was also a small sense of relief when we finally checked into the hospital. Relief that my child was finally going to get the professional help he desperately needed. I tried to go online and look for resources, support groups, ANYTHING…but there was nothing. That’s part of the reason why I’m here today.

What I’ve learned about RSV 2 years later:

  • Since our bout with the Really Scary Virus, I’ve connected with so many wonderful people in the medical community. My journey began with the researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where Adam spent 5 days. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital are working to help develop a vaccine to prevent RSV infections. The team’s research is so promising they have received a $6.75 million grant from The National Institutes of Health. If successful, the vaccine will save the lives of infants and children throughout the world, preventing more than 57,000 hospitalizations and over 2 million medical visits for infants and children each year. There are many other medical institutes, like the research team at The Ohio State University and The University of South Florida that is also working hard to develop an RSV vaccine.
  • I’ve spent some time in Washington, DC connecting with some incredible people at The National Coalition for Infant Health. We are working together to form a sub-coalition for RSV parents. I’m hoping more parents will join our fight to raise awareness for this virus. We can’t do it alone, and if our coalition gets enough traction, we hope to speak with legislators to gain support for this cause. Super exciting!!
  • I’ve connected with a pharmaceutical company that is VERY close to having an RSV vaccine on the market later this year. The vaccine would be administered to pregnant mothers during their 30th week of pregnancy, and the hope is the antibodies would be passed along to the baby through the placenta protecting the child for the first 6 months of life from RSV. This is the most vulnerable time frame, so this could be a huge win. YAY!
  • Currently, the only preventative measure on the market is an FDA-approved prescription, made up of virus-fighting antibodies called Synagis. My child did not receive Synagis, as he was born full-term but I have heard from other RSV parents you have to qualify and the prescription is very expensive. Synagis is not a vaccine, but rather a booster to help protect high-risk infants.
  • RSV can strike anyone! RSV is not a prejudicial virus and it has a potentially deadly effect on anyone despite education, demographics, region, religion, socioeconomic class. In fact, RSV is the #1 cause of hospitalizations for children under the age of 2 in the United States. It is the 2nd leading cause of death for infants worldwide, behind malaria. RSV is real. I am not offering these facts to scare you, I am offering them so you are aware and understand how quickly the virus can manifest in your community.
  • You are NOT alone! I receive messages weekly from RSV parents sharing their stories, their frustrations, their fears. It’s a scary virus that no one should have to experience alone. My hope for the coalition is we can create a solid resource for parents to find answers and support. In the meantime, I am not a medical professional but I am here for moral support and I can help answer any questions you may have. You can always send me a DM on Instagram @shanistyireland or send an email to hello@shesbecomingdomestic.com.

Because no one should have to endure this Really Scary Virus, alone.

Adam at 6 weeks old with RSV.

My original blog post can be viewed here: https://shesbecomingdomestic.com/2017/01/17/rsv-changed-the-way-i-parent/

Other places you can learn about our story:

Today Show, Scary Mommy, Motherly, CBS News, US News and World Report.

Podcasts and other videos:

Alliance for Patient Access 

National Coalition for Infant Health Summit

Dear Luke, 

You are the one who made me a mother 6 years ago today. I can say with complete honesty, it is my favorite job and greatest adventure. 

Now, where do I begin with you? 

Luke, you are a very very special child. Of course, all mothers think that about their children…but there is something truly unique about you. There is not a jealous bone in your body. Sure, you rival with your sister as siblings tend to do, but at the end of the day you just want to make her happy. Sometimes you get in trouble for doing something for her, it makes you cry and you’ll say to me: “Mommy, I was just trying to make Eden happy.” You would fall on a sword for her and it makes my mama heart melt. 

You don’t like being the center of attention, but oftentimes you are. You are loud, and hilarious. The imaginary games you come up with amaze me. You and your siblings have a basement full of toys, but you’d rather create a scavenger hunt for your brother and sister or battle it out on a board game. Gosh, do you L O V E board games. 

Speaking of games, sports are your passion. Since this letter is a way to brag on you, son… you’re pretty darn good at them too. You started hockey this year. Your favorite sports are still golf, baseball, hockey and soccer, but if we’re being completely honest there isn’t a sport you don’t enjoy. 

Some mornings you wake up before me and rewatch Alabama football games or the Golf Channel. You love Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar. Matt gave you a high-five once… you like to remind us of this fun fact often. 

Luke, you are smart. You learned to read this year in Kindergarten, and you have mastered math. You are obsessed with math. If I’m being completely honest here, I don’t enjoy math so you are going to need to be patient with me. You like to tell me 43+2 is 45, but also 44+1 is 45 and also 40+5 is 45. It amazes you that so many numbers can have the same solution. Santa brought you an additional and subtraction calculator for Christmas, you take it everywhere with you. 

Luke, you love learning about the human body. You had a hospital stay at Nationwide Children’s earlier this fall for your respiratory issues, and actually really enjoyed your stay. You asked the doctors and nurses 5,938 questions and wanted to absorb every single moment there. You recently hit your hand on the table by accident and said to me: “Mommy, did you know that I just hit my hand and I could see the blue blood in my veins? It’s actually always red, but it looks blue. Did you know the blood is working hard to circulate back to my heart.” My jaw dropped, you want to become a doctor at Children’s Hospital and I don’t doubt you for one second. 

Luke, you are so caring and inclusive of your friends. Your teacher shared a story with me this school year that made me cry. At the end of the day you like to have the class sit in a circle to play “rock, paper, scissors” once you lose you like to pick a friend who is being a good listener. This child is usually one who hasn’t been included in many activities for the day. It’s important to you that everyone is included. You are extremely sensitive to that.

We watched Prancer this holiday season. A simple 80s flick about a girl and Santa’s reindeer. You came over to me and told me you wanted to shut the movie off. I asked why? You told me you didn’t like the way the little girl was disrespecting her father. As I mentioned… extremely sensitive.  

Luke, you love to make people laugh. You adore your sister and brother. You love listening to music and dancing. You love Star Wars and LEGOs. You love the Columbus Blue Jackets. You love learning about geography and historical figures. You love eating at Bibibop and you think the Rusty Bucket is the nicest restaurant in the world.

I can’t believe you are 6, but I also love that you are 6. You are learning and growing and becoming such a wonderful young man. I could sit here and write a complete novel with stories and accomplishments, but I know it would continue to embarrass you. 

Luke, you are the greatest leader and set such a remarkable example for your siblings. You make us so proud. You make us so happy. You made us a mommy & daddy, and for that we are forever grateful. 

Happy 6th Birthday, Luke Myers.

Love, 

Mom

I recently posted a picture of my kids making a mess with Play-Doh and captioned it: “Don’t mind the mess, my kids are busy making memories of me yelling at them to clean up their mess.” Obviously, this was in good fun– but it had me thinking. What will my children remember me by during this time of their lives?

Do you worry your kids will remember you by something negative? Be it nagging them to clean their rooms, pick up their dirty socks, or brush their teeth… are these the things that will stick in their brains forever when they think back to age 4, 5, 6 and so forth?

I know the obvious answer to this is, no. But I decided to write out 8 things I hope my children remember me by.

  1. Her life didn’t stop for us, she took us along to enjoy OUR life together: When I was pregnant with Luke, I remember a neighbor of mine in Birmingham who had two very small children. I was still working in the news business and working the evening shift, so I was around every morning until about 1 PM. I remember every single morning that mom waking up and loading up her children to have an adventure. They would go to the library, park, mall. I remember being so inspired by her ability to take her kids with her on daily adventures. I vowed then to do the same. I know many people don’t understand why I take my kids with me to the grocery store, shopping mall or on business errands… but my life doesn’t revolve just around them. It’s important to me that they understand I will do lots of fun things with them, but at the same time, I have a life too. I have things I need to do, and I don’t want to hire a babysitter for those simple things. I want them with me, I want them to learn from our daily outings. My mom worked from home and I would go to the bank, DMV and utility company with her… just like my kids do with me. We can make any errand an adventure!
  2. She had her favorites: Calm down! Let me explain first. I take the time to individually connect with my children so they know they are my favorite. You see, Luke is my favorite big boy and the very best big brother there ever was. Eden is my very favorite girl and the very best sister to her brothers. Adam is my very favorite baby and the very best baby brother. I tell them this. I spend the time to point out amazing qualities each one of them possesses. They like the individual attention, but I also make it a point to let the other children know what makes their sibling so special.
  3. She squeezed us and kissed us multiple times a day: First thing in the morning, each one of my children gets a giant hug and kiss. Throughout the day, I make it a point to set down my phone and give them physical attention. Children need that. They need to feel your love, not just hear the words.
  4. She let us help with everything: I will be the first to tell you, it takes patience. It is so much easier to cook dinner on my own without little ones scampering under my feet, but my daughter loves to cook. She has an apron she pulls out every single afternoon when she knows it’s time to start our meal prep. She looks forward to cracking eggs, grinding meat, and stirring pasta over the stove. YES! She is supervised. Trust me, it would be so much easier to shoo her away, but I want her to develop a love for cooking and I want her to know I will always say ‘yes’ to spending that time with her. Same goes for my older son. He loves helping his dad in the yard, so he is out there once a week pulling weeds and cleaning grass clippings.
  5. She loved to laugh and play: The laughing part is easy. I’m biased, as every mother is, but I think my kids are hilarious tiny humans. The playing part is a bit trickier. My kids are finally getting to an age where they enjoy fun board games and coloring. My sons love sports and my daughter enjoys it when I help her dress her baby dolls. I secretly don’t “love” playing with them every day… but they will never know that.
  6. She was in love with our daddy: Listen, some days I don’t have the energy just like the next person… but it’s so important that our children see my husband and I in a loving, healthy relationship. We speak to one another with love and respect, we spend time with each other away from the children, we have adult conversations while they are around and teach them to not interrupt. It’s important to us they know our relationship matters and takes priority.
  7. She helped others and used her talents to make a difference: Yes, I am a stay at home mom but that doesn’t define me. It also doesn’t mean my life is over for the next 18-20 + years. I write this blog for you. I share my thoughts and experiences to connect with you and hopefully to help others. Even though I live in Suburbia, I want my children to know I utilized my voice and God-given talents every single day of my life. My absolute favorite quote of all time is by Erma Bombeck. (Who also is a personal hero of mine!) “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say: ‘I used everything You gave me.'”  AMEN!
  8. She prayed with us and for us: I pray every single day for my children to grow into amazing humans. I also pray with them. I pray that they live their lives with a loving heart. To be kind and find joy in their day-to-day lives. It is so easy to get wrapped up in things that do not matter. I hope they always stay focused on the important things in life and always love and support one another. And always know how much their mommy loves them.

Shanisty Ireland

Memories in the making…

Facetune_09-10-2018-09-43-26

I want them to remember most of all their mommy loves them very much. 

Last week I embarked on a new journey, and perhaps one of the most important ones of my life. I was asked to fly to Washington, DC to meet with a pharmaceutical company that’s working hard on developing a vaccine for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). I agreed, because sharing our story is something I am extremely passionate about.

If you’re new to my blog, allow me to give you a summary. When our youngest child, Adam, was just 6 weeks old he was diagnosed with RSV and almost lost his life. He had contracted the virus from my older two children who probably picked it up from preschool. We spent 5 days in the hospital, as Adam was hooked up to breathing machines and IVs. It was the scariest days of my life. If it wasn’t for the incredible care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio Adam would not be celebrating his 2nd birthday with us this year.

So last week, I had the incredible opportunity to meet with some intelligent, talented individuals who explained their efforts in creating the first RSV vaccination. It was fascinating and truly enlightening to listen to them speak about the virus and how it has evolved. There have been so many failed efforts over the last 50 years in creating a vaccine that would protect infants from the second leading killer worldwide, behind malaria. The amount of the time, effort, money and passion that’s gone into making the RSV vaccine is beyond comprehension.

Friday morning, I stood in front of a room of about 300 people from the pharmaceutical company. Many were doctors, scientists and researchers – all were working together on this vaccine. I stood in that room and opened up my heart. I opened up about our story, Adam’s story, in hopes that he serves as an inspiration. I let them view the short 15 second video of his extreme labored breathing. Every single time I watch it, I tear up, as many others did in that room.

While it was an emotional morning, it was so inspiring for me. You see, this is only the beginning. I’m making it my mission to continue the conversation. To further the awareness and the education. I look forward to watching this particular company make headway as the final clinical trial results come in. There is still such a long road ahead for the company, but they are on a fast track for sure.

My closing message for the amazing people I met with was simple. I know how hard it is when you’re in the trenches. When you’re working on something every single day, it becomes mundane, you almost become numb to it. Millions of dollars have been poured into this work and many people feel as though they have given their lives to the RSV vaccine.

As I stood in front of that room, I wiped my tears away, thanked them and said: this IS absolutely something worth giving their lives for.

#ProtectLittleLungs

You can read our full RSV story here: How RSV Changed the Way I Parent

Adam Ireland RSV 3

Adam at 6 weeks old with RSV.

 

 

Disclosure:  This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TrustinGentle #ChooseGentle #CollectiveBias

When you enter motherhood for the very first time, you are whisked away into unfamiliar territory. I faced fears that I didn’t even know were possible. I doubted my ability to be a mom…what if I’m incapable of keeping a small human alive?! Something I stressed about with the arrival of my first child was being properly armed with all of the necessary items for our survival.

A very wise nurse at L&D told me the only things my baby needed were food, a safe place to sleep, and a clean environment. SO. TRUE. I’ve actually used that bit of advice as more children entered our lives and expanded the limbs of our family tree.

One brand I have loved and trusted since I started my motherhood journey is JOHNSON’S®. I remember my mother using the distinctive sweet-smelling JOHNSON’S® head-to-toe baby wash and shampoo with me, the aroma still takes me back to safe place in my childhood. JOHNSON’S® was a brand I grew up loving and trusting, so it was only natural I embarked in a similar relationship when our first came home from the hospital.

For 5 years now, JOHNSON’S® has been a staple product in our home. The soft yellow bottle of JOHNSON’S® head-to-toe wash and shampoo has a permanent place on the side of our family’s bath tubs. I am a firm believer in the 3-step night-time routine using JOHNSON’S® bedtime lotion. It’s the only routine proven to help improve baby’s sleep!

  1. Warm Bath
  2. Gentle Massage
  3. Quiet Time

The awesome thing about JOHNSON’S® products, my older children know exactly where to find the line when we walk into our local Walgreens.

I admit, there are times I have forgotten to pick up baby lotion or shampoo until the final hour. Ugh, mom brain. We are so lucky to have a 24-hour Walgreens so close to our home. It’s a store we frequent, because of convenience but even more so, because of the customer care.

I can’t even tell you how many times I have visited our Walgreens pharmacy and asked (what I consider) silly questions. The customer service from the patient cashiers to the knowledgable pharmacists is unlike any other retailer. It’s no wonder why Walgreens and JOHNSON’S® are both brands we love and trust, especially for this busy mom of three who is always forgetting something and rushing to the store for help.

A recent stroll down the baby care aisle at Walgreens revealed something that really caught my eye! JOHNSON’S® has launched a *NEW and improved* baby product line. I couldn’t help myself, and snatched up almost every item on the shelf, including the reformulated JOHNSON’S® soothing vapor bath, JOHNSON’S® bedtime lotion, JOHNSON’S®head-to-toe wash & shampoo, and JOHNSON’S® no more tangles spray.

The new & improved product line has so many positives…way too many to mention them all, but here are some ones that really hit home for me. Did you know baby’s skin is 30% thinner than an adults? So it needs the best gentle care possible.

  • JOHNSON’S® is 100% gentle (great for our youngest baby’s sensitive skin), it’s free of parabens and phthalates.
  • There are 50% fewer ingredients in the new and improved line of skin care. Johnson’s uses only purposeful ingredients. The products are dye free, and sulfate free. YAY!
  • Enhanced functionality of adding the pump top to the bottles to make it easier for mom to utilize when she has her hands full. *this is a BIG one for me, oftentimes I have my 5 or 4-year-old help out with the baby when my hands are full!

I’ve been a mom now for 5, going on 6 years, and while I may not be an expert in all things parenting I do know the brands that I love and trust. JOHNSON’S® and Walgreens top the list for me!

Have you tried the NEW & improved line of JOHNSON’S® baby products? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

BONUS! From 7/29- 8/25 JOHNSON’S® Baby products are buy 1 get 1 50% off with your Walgreens balance rewards card! Here is the link to this incredible offer: http://cbi.as/a27dm

DSC_3806

Bath time is our youngest baby’s favorite time.

Facetune_20-08-2018-19-54-28

JOHNSON’S® products are 100% gentle.

IMG_3628

“The Brand You Trust, Now More Gentle Than Ever”

DSC_3789

New & improved JOHNSON’S® Baby line at our local 24-hour Walgreens.

DSC_3792

I couldn’t stop with one!

Facetune_20-08-2018-19-28-49

Super happy when his sister joins him in the tub.

Facetune_20-08-2018-19-36-03

Facetune_20-08-2018-19-23-37

JOHNSON’S® and Walgreens are brands we love and trust.