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

A new baby is such an exciting time for the entire family. My older two children were 3 and 2 years old when Adam was born, so while they may not have fully understood the entire pregnancy journey… they were thrilled to have a new sibling coming home from the hospital!

Adam was born full-term and weighed a whopping 9 lbs. 8 oz. at birth. We thought everything with him was perfectly normal, until he was diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) at 6 weeks old.

It was a terrifying time for our entire family as Adam was admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital for several days. He was hooked up to breathing machines and oxygen as he fought for his little life.

During that time, Luke and Eden didn’t visit him at the hospital. We made that decision because we knew Adam would be coming home soon and seeing him in the hospital would be such a difficult thing to explain to them. I fully understand that is not reality for all families, as the older children will spend a lot of time in the ICU or NICU.

Many of the questions we were faced with: Why is our baby brother in the hospital again? What’s wrong with him? When will he come home? When can we hold him again? Am I as important as the baby?

I wish there was a simple way to explain what was happening to Adam, but my husband and I had to rely on simple conversation to try to answer their questions to our best ability.

I recently attended a summit with the National Coalition for Infant Health in Washington, DC where parents, physicians, researchers and other advocates gathered to discuss all aspects of infant health. A lot of the conversations spotlighted preemies and what life is like in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

It’s at this summit that I learned about a wonderful organization that is working hard on providing resources for families, teachers and parenting professions. Platypus Media‘s goals are relatively simple. They are educating adults and children about the world around them. They publish books that foster warmth, closeness, literacy, curiosity, and an openness to other cultures. Specifically, they have two products to support siblings of children in the NICU–both are coloring books, a format that keeps young kids involved while they learn. One of the coloring books my children love: Come Home Soon Baby Brother/Sister!

The coloring book does a fantastic job explaining to older siblings why their baby brother or sister is in the NICU. The short story follows an older sibling’s journey at the hospital as he explains to the reader what is happening to his baby brother/sister. The child then encourages the reader to draw a picture of him/her for the baby at the NICU. It challenges the reader to think outside of the box and focus on the health and safety of their baby sibling. It’s also important for the older children to know they are just as important and just as loved as the sick baby, even though mom and dad are spending a lot of time at the hospital.

I really wish I had these coloring books when Adam was in the ICU at Children’s Hospital. Even though the books focus on the NICU, I think they are extremely valuable resources for any family with a small child in the hospital.

You can purchase any of Platypus’s Books on their website, here! They are also available in Spanish.

*The post is sponsored by Platypus Media. All opinions are my own.*

Come Home Soon, Baby Brother! (Platypus Media)

I grew up here. I know every single house on the main stretches of the road. Many of the homes have been torn down to make way for new developments, but I can still recall who lived where. I can drive my exact school bus route from elementary school. I still frequent the neighborhood pizza joint. And twice a week, I drive to the same preschool I attended as a child to drop off my kids. So much has changed, yet so much is the same in my new, old home.

When I was 18, I left my hometown of New Albany, Ohio and never looked back. I moved South to attend college at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. From there I took my first job in West Virginia, only to move to Birmingham two years later. I stayed in Alabama for several years before moving back to Lexington. We then made our way to Savannah.

After 15 years of job shifts, career changes, and multiple moves…our family packed up one final time to come back to my hometown. We moved to be closer to my family and to raise our children in the Heartland.

Coming back to Ohio didn’t happen without a fight. To be completely honest, I didn’t want to move home. I had been gone for 15 years, so the fear of “failing” was long gone. But in those 15 years away, I fell in love with the South, the culture and lifestyle, especially in Savannah. Slow-paced, heat and humidity, palm trees, the beach. Just a completely different landscape than the one I knew.

Three years later, we are still here in New Albany, and we couldn’t be happier. It’s funny how it takes a couple of years to settle and to fully embrace your new home, even if it is your old home, as well.

I follow so many of you on social media. Many of you live in beautiful places like San Diego, Utah, Arizona, Naples, Charleston, Australia…and I’m envious of the beauty in the places you call home.

But, there is so much beauty and charm in the Midwest. SO MUCH BEAUTY. My husband isn’t from here, so he’s able to see it when I don’t. The truth is, sometimes we miss the beauty when it is right in front of us.

In Ohio, you will find barns. Lots, and lots and lots of barns. You will find dairy farms, white fences and old worn out silos encased in ivy. There are many corn fields and some of the most stunning sunsets a person could ever hope to see. There are big cities, and little hidden country gems nestled in rolling hills and the plains.

Midwesterners are wonderful people. They are wholesome and friendly and hardworking. They are America. It’s no wonder that so many companies use Ohio as a test market for new products, especially in the food and beverage industry.

The most beautiful part is I finally have peace. I can finally find peace within my new, old home. I’m thankful for the time I spent away from Ohio, but I’m even more thankful to be back here raising my children in the same corn fields I originally called home.

 “If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” – Wilbur Wright (Wright Brothers)

Home is where the Heart (land) is.

Farms, vintage finds, country living.

Home is where the Heart (land) is.

Lemonade stands and simple living.

Home is where the Heart (land) is.

Old Blue is part of our family, and has been for years.

Home is where the Heart (land) is.

A little Joan Baez (not from Ohio).

Home is where the Heart (land) is.

Ohio is the Heartland.