‘You feel so helpless’: increase in respiratory illness nearly doubles patient visits to Children’s Hospital

A Winnipeg mother is thanking staff at the Children’s Hospital after both her young children became infected with a common children’s virus, resulting in three trips to the emergency room for her baby boy.

Breanne MacLennan said she wasn’t sure at first if her 2-year-old son had respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) when he started showing symptoms.

“It was definitely worse than an average cold for my toddler. He was down for 10 days, for three or more days he didn’t eat, he had high fever on and off,” she said.

When MacLennan’s six-week-old baby started getting sick as well, the situation became much worse.

“He was kind of struggling to breathe a little bit. We’d tilt him back to lay him down and he would kind of gasp for air,” she said.

“It just kept getting worse, so I ended up in (emergency) that night.”

MacLennan ended up bringing her baby to the emergency room three times over the next few days.

“On the third night, we were there all night, and then they admitted us to the hospital because he just wasn’t managing very well on his own,” said MacLennan.

“Once we were in the hospital, they kept him on oxygen, and then because he just couldn’t breathe to feed, we decided to put a feeding tube in,” she added.

MacLennan said on day seven of the illness, her son started to show signs of improvement.

“You feel so helpless. You just want to breathe for them, you just want to pump air into their lungs for them, and you just can’t. It is terrifying.”

A spokesperson for Shared Health said in an email to CTV News that admission numbers are higher than normal at the Children’s Hospital due to respiratory illnesses like RSV.

“There were 183 patient visits to the children’s ED (Friday), the third time this week that daily numbers have climbed past the 180-mark in the past six days. Patient volumes this week at HSC Children’s are up by approximately a third from September, when an average of 139.5 patients per day were seen. (Friday’s) number is nearly 50 per cent higher than the daily average for November 2021,” stated the email.

It goes on to say that normal seasonal cycles of RSV, influenza, gastroenteritis, coxsackie and other viruses have been disrupted by the pandemic.

“Now these viruses are all spreading around the same time after laying dormant for more than two years, leading to increased visits to the emergency department and increased patient admissions,” said the email.

MacLennan said she is grateful things weren’t worse for her son, “We are very very fortunate that in the grand scheme of RSV, it wasn’t worst case scenario.”

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