‘A day ago everything was fine, and now I wondered if our baby would survive. We watched as she lay gray and wondered how she had contracted the virus.’

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“My name is Caitlin Henderson. My husband and I live in rural Kansas with our three children. Living out on the farm means we are an hour from our big hospital. Our daughter made her way into the world a month early, and after a dramatic car delivery and exactly 55 minutes of labor. She was healthy and feisty, and fit right in with our now family of five. I’ve always been careful with our babies, especially in the winter, but wasn’t too surprised when I was awakened by her cough early one morning when she was just six weeks old.

With two older brothers who loved to smother her with affection, colds are to be pretty expected. But this cough sounded different. This tiny baby struggled for each breath. We rushed her to our local ER where we were horrified to learn that her oxygen was only at 82%. We were rushed by ambulance to our local children’s hospital to be admitted.

What I had thought was just a cold, was actually confirmed to be RSV, or Respiratory syncytial virus. This nasty virus has no cure, and normally doesn’t even peak at its worst until around day five. A mother can do nothing but helplessly watch as their child has to have help breathing and repeated lung suctions.

A short 24 hours after my daughter developed a cough, we were being rushed down the halls of the children’s hospital, to be taken to the PICU. Even with the oxygen and suctions, our daughter’s body was trying to give up the fight. With every breath she fought to take in, her chest would retract around her ribs, a sign that we later learned is a very significant and scary sign. I asked the nurse in the PICU if she was going to be okay and she told me ‘I can’t tell you that she is. We will try our best, but RSV can be fatal.’ I couldn’t believe that a day ago everything was fine, and now I wondered if our baby would even survive.

Man stands beside baby lying in PICU crib holding her hand

The next week was spent in the PICU watching our daughter fight as we prayed, she would just pull through. With all of the IV lines, feeding tube, and intubation she was hooked to, merely holding her was a feat. We watched as she lay grey and wondered how she had contracted the virus.

Baby lays in PICU covered in pink floral blanket with oxygen tube up her nose

What appears as a common cold in adults and even older children, can be deadly for infants. Our daughter made a full recovery over the next month, but many children don’t. Many children will have respiratory problems for years to come. Our hopes in sharing this story is to raise awareness for this horrible virus, and the lasting consequences it can have on families. We will never know for sure how our daughter got RSV, but it very well could have been a kiss from one of us or one of her brothers.

Mother sits in hospital holding baby daughter who has RSV
Courtesy Caitlin Henderson

We know that babies are so precious and kissable, but after learning how deadly a simple kiss can be for these babies, I would urge you to reconsider. As we left the hospital our nurse said the words I’ll never forget. ‘I’m so glad to see you going home. You have no idea how close her little body was to giving up.’

The hospital rooms were lined with babies fighting RSV, and they are that way every winter. If our story can save even one child from having to fight this virus, then sharing our story is worth it. We are so thankful that we got to bring our baby home, but there are many that don’t. So please this winter, be mindful of the harm that can come from a well-meaning kiss of that sweet baby.”

Father holding baby recovered from RSV beside wife whose two sons stand in front of them
Courtesy Caitlin Henderson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Caitlin Henderson of Faith, Farming and Family. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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