Ten years ago, Karen and Michael Long had a son named Benny who was born with multiple special needs. At the age of 16 months, he died from complications of pneumonia.
So when 2 1/2-year-old Conner and 3-month-old Olivia were diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the Longs were incredibly frightened. The thought of losing another child was unbearable.
But thanks to the power of prayer, the overwhelming support of the community, and skilled care at Delta County Memorial Hospital, St. Mary's and Children's Hospital, Conner and Olivia are well on their way to recovery.
The Longs' ordeal began in late February, when the kids' colds got so bad they were having trouble breathing. Karen and Michael rushed Conner and Olivia to the emergency room in Delta, where they were diagnosed with pneumonia and H1 flu. When Conner failed to show any improvement, a crew arrived from St. Mary's at 3 a.m. to fly him to Children's Hospital in Denver. The next day, at Karen's insistence, a plane arrived from Children's Hospital to pick up Olivia.
Both were hospitalized for a couple of weeks, including a lengthy stay in the pediatric intensive care unit that was incredibly scary for both parents. At one point, Karen found it difficult to even step into Olivia's room because her heart had stopped three times, part of a fight-or-flight instinct young babies have. Both kids were on ventilators with tubes running in and out of their small bodies. "My heart was in my throat the whole time," Karen said. "It was an absolute nightmare."
Focused on the kids' recovery, Karen and Michael didn't realize the support that was building back home in Delta County. At Cedaredge Middle School, where Michael teaches social studies, students were raising money through bake sales and pajama day. One student brought in a piggy bank filled with coins. Students and staff at the elementary and high schools also held fund raisers. The student council at Delta High School organized a fundraiser that cleared over $2,000. Friends cleaned their house, finished the laundry and took care of 4-year-old Izzy. An account was established at DeltaBank to help with medical expenses. At Delta Vision, where Karen is employed, fellow staffers are covering her duties so she can stay home with the kids.
Karen is overwhelmed by the generosity of people, many of whom she has never met, and is grateful to live in a small community where people are so caring.
"Although this was an incredibly scary situation, it's been a reminder that there's good in so many people," she said. "Being part of a community like this is pretty amazing. It has truly been a blessing to see the humanity in Delta County.
"We are so thankful that all of our children are on the mend and we have them home with us safe and sound," Karen said. Olivia is doing especially well; Conner may have some unrelated respiratory problems that will require follow-up at National Jewish Hospital in Denver.
RSV is a common virus that leads to mild, cold-like symptoms in adults and older healthy children. It can be more serious in young babies like Olivia and Conner. Although it's not common for siblings to both require hospitalization, the infection can spread through contact with toys, cups or other contaminated objects shared by the children.
According to Delta County Memorial Hospital, the RSV season is expected to last through April 2012. You should call your doctor if your child shows any increased problem with breathing, has a prolonged fever or is not taking enough fluids for normal urine output.
Karen has this advice for parents: "If you are unsure if your child is sick, trust your mom and dad instincts! Doctors have the medical knowledge, but parents know their children best. This is a lesson I have learned over and over again. Also, life is a gift and should not be taken for granted!"blog comments powered by Disqus