(NEW YORK) — A Washington state mother is warning about the dangers of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, after her 7-month-old daughter was hospitalized with the illness.
Mya Walker said her daughter, Ariella Rain, was a happy, healthy baby until the end of October, when she started developing symptoms of RSV.
“She had a cough for like a day and usually she typically was coughing after she ate her bottle so I wasn’t really worried about it,” Walker told ABC News. “And then I was at work and her grandma actually took her temperature and it came back 102 F. So that’s when we took her to the emergency room.”
Ariella was taken to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver on Oct. 28, where she was diagnosed with RSV.
Across the United States, cases of RSV have been appearing earlier this year than usual and are on the rise. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13,126 infections were diagnosed in September 2022 — which rose to 47,910 for the month of October.
According to the CDC, other symptoms can include runny nose, sneezing, wheezing and a decrease in appetite.
RSV is especially dangerous among infants and babies, with an estimated 58,000 to 80,000 children under age 5 being hospitalized with the virus, the CDC said.
However, some are at an even greater risk of severe illness, including those born prematurely, immunocompromised children and those suffering from congenital heart and lung diseases.
Ariella was born prematurely on March 24, at 30 weeks, via emergency C-section weighing one pound, five ounces because she was not thriving inside the womb, according to Walker.
She also has pulmonary vein stenosis, a rare condition in which the blood vessels that bring blood from the lungs to the heart are too narrow or even blocked.
However, Walker said that despite Ariella’s medical conditions, she was thriving and hitting her developmental milestones.
“Outside of her sickness, she was pretty much just a normal baby, always laughing and kicking her feet,” Walker said.
However, not long after Ariella was admitted to the hospital, she was transferred to Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, where she is currently in the pediatric intensive care unit.
Walker said Ariella’s lungs have been so greatly affected by RSV that she developed bronchitis, or inflammation of her airways. She has since been on a ventilator and even had to be put on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine.
The machine pumps a patient’s blood outside the body, oxygenates it and then sends it back into the bloodstream, which allows the heart and lungs to rest.
Walker said the past several days have been very difficult. She has been at the hospital every day with Ariella while her partner stays home with their 5-year-old daughter.
Walker said the hospital is not allowing child visitors so her older daughter can’t visit Ariella.
“It’s been really hard on her sister because her sister loves [Ariella] so much and wants to see her but she’s not able to come up here and see her,” she said.
On Nov. 2, Ariella went into respiratory arrest, which is when a person stops breathing, and had to have CPR performed on her as well as intubation.
“It was the scariest [moment of my life],” Walker said. “I never want to see my child get CPR ever again. It was so scary. I lost it.”
Although Ariella has since been taken off the ECMO machine, Walker said she has a long way to go before she’s close to recovering. She said she wants to warn other families about the dangers of RSV and to make sure they receive medical attention if they notice a change in behavior.
“My main message is to warn families of this RSV, and this season is really, really bad,” she said. “So just really pay attention to your child’s behavior, because my daughter, she was just learning how to laugh and the next day she was critically ill.”
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