Navigating RSV complications, two hours from home

Last Modified: 1/06/2023


In late October, Katie Garrett, a mother of three, was making plans for her upcoming birthday. “We live in the Indianapolis area, but we have family in Fort Wayne,” she said. “My mom kept saying, ‘I never get to spend your birthday with you anymore,’ so we decided to head north.”

The weeks leading up to their trip had been challenging, with a respiratory bug working its way through the household. “My other kids had [Respiratory syncytial virus] (RSV). My son started it, showing symptoms at the end of September. He went through it for at least a week. Then my middle daughter got it. My youngest, Ellie, was just three weeks old when this all first started, and I was praying she didn’t get it.

“The Thursday before we went up to Fort Wayne, Ellie developed a slight cough, and I thought she was probably getting what her siblings had but she seemed OK enough for us to make the trip, so we left home on that Friday, October 22.”

By Saturday night, Ellie, who was just six weeks old, started showing signs of distress. “She was really working to breathe and just wasn’t acting like herself. She never got a fever, but she was very lethargic,” Katie recalled. “I’d actually brought an oxygen monitor with us. I put it on her foot, and she was in the upper 80s, so I called the pediatrician’s office. They weren’t comfortable with that reading and told me I should go in to make sure she didn’t need additional support.”  

When Ellie’s oxygen didn’t show improvement and knowing how quickly little ones can decline with RSV, the Emergency Department providers decided to admit the infant to the Pediatric ICU (PICU) at Parkview Regional Medical Center (PRMC).


“When we got up to the Pediatrics floor, the staff was amazing,” Katie said. “We felt so supported. They answered every question we had, and never treated us like they were dumb questions. They told us exactly how it was going to go. It was a stressful situation, but we really felt like the staff went above and beyond to help us and make sure we had what we needed.”

The team even did what they could to acknowledge Katie’s special day. “When they found out it was my birthday that Sunday, they were super sweet and wanted to just make that day a little less hectic for us. Ellie was on high flow oxygen and couldn’t eat, so we weren’t getting much sleep. They were so quiet as they would come and go, trying to help us get rest.”

Being from out of town, even with relatives close by, the family found great comfort in the services offered through the Ronald McDonald House, located on the first floor of PRMC. “The Ronald McDonald House came by every day to see if we needed anything and made us feel so taken care of. We felt so out of place being away from our home and hadn’t packed things for a hospital stay. My husband used their space for work calls and we were even able to bring the other kids in for a visit with Ellie there toward the end of her stay so they could play with her and we didn’t have to be apart for the whole week. It was so great.”


Looking back, Katie recalls one particularly special occasion. “We hadn’t left her room for a few days, and it got to the point where we needed a shower. I was packing up my stuff and talking about how much I needed to get cleaned up, and one of the nurses said, ‘You can both go if you want. We’ve got her.’ We felt so confident in the care she was getting that we were both able to step away for a bit, shower, get food and rest. That’s how much we trusted them.”

After four days in the PICU and one day in the Pediatrics unit, Ellie was able to go home, and has made a complete recovery. She just turned three months old and has no lingering effects.


With a few months between them and their stay at PRMC, Katie has had some time to reflect on Ellie’s ordeal. “I remember, when we were in the ER, we kept going back and forth about whether we should stay or try to go home so that we could be closer to what we know,” Katie said. “But after her time at Parkview, we were so thankful we stayed. It ended up being a blessing in disguise. I just don't know if we would have received the same care somewhere else.”

And as for her daughter’s caregivers, “I just want to say thank you for caring for her but also caring for us. We expected the attention to be on her, which it needed to be, but we didn't expect for them to put us on the priority list, too.”


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