Parents are not OK after three years of Covid and a brutal winter of children's respiratory illness Courtesy Mahbubur Rahman By Christina Zdanowicz, CNN (CNN) -- With children back in school and daycare after the holidays, weary parents fear what illness awaits them next during this brutal respiratory virus season. Since October, RSV, a respiratory virus which often is most severe in young children and older adults, hit early and cases started rising quickly.
Cases of influenza started rising soon after, all while Covid-19 continued to spread, with new variants surfacing. The CDC estimates: At least 24 million illnesses and 16,000 deaths have occurred due to the flu this season; About 15% of the US population lives in a county with a "high" community level of Covid-19; There were about 14 RSV hospitalizations for every 100,000 children under 5 in the latest week of complete data -- about eight times higher than the overall hospitalization rate. CNN spoke to parents across the country about the challenges this flu season.
They described canceling Christmas, missing trips home to see family and pulling their children out of daycare to keep them safe from illness. Here are some of their stories, as told in their own wordsTheir responses have been edited for length and clarity. 'Making decisions on which ball to drop' Michaela Riley from Issaquah, Washington I am a single mom living in the suburbs of Seattle.
I work for one of the major corporations hereOn the outside, I look successful.
My parents were going to watch them.
Basically, all November one of us was sickMy kids got RSV and were so sick for 14 days.
I was supposed to go camping last year with the familyI got Covid for the fourth time and had to cancelI'm going a little bonkers. The group I work with has been so supportive of me and understanding of my situationThey honestly helped me during the worst times. I have this hashtag for 2023: #BeFree23.
Instead of focusing on the struggle, I focus on what's working in my lifeI feel better about 2023I don't think anything's going to change, but changing my mindset is the one thing I have control over. 'As parents and health care workers, we are not coping well' Jason Hecht from Ann Arbor, Michigan I am a doctor who works in critical care with a wife who works in primary care.
Not only are we struggling on the health care worker side with the massive demands of this season but also struggling far more at home. The last month or two have probably been the most mentally and emotionally taxing I've ever had in my lifeWe have a 2-year-old and a 3-month-oldIt was our youngest who was sick about a month ago and ended up in the ICU on the ventilator with RSV. At the time, we had a healthy, thriving 2-month-old without an issue in the world.
To see him so quickly knocked down and be to the point of almost dying in the intensive care unit was very sobering for my wife and ISeeing your baby that sick -- that part alone has been very emotionally draining. I was all too aware of how severe his illness wasIt was difficult to play the role of father, husband and caretaker because the pull was so strong to go into health care provider mode. We had to completely upend our life, pull both kids out of daycare.
We're still struggling to find a reliable source of child care that's going to be safe for both of them, including our now vulnerable sonWe're still paying for both kids' daycare spots, even though they aren't going, because daycare waitlists are so longAs parents and health care workers, we are not coping well. We've used six or seven weeks of PTO total so far since this happened in November.
This was difficult, too, with my wife coming off maternity leaveHer maternity leave has been mostly unpaid, so that was already three months we were going without her paycheckI don't have any paternity leave. I am very passionate about what I do, and I love being able to help people when they're at their worst in the ICU.
It's been difficult to have to put all that aside to prioritize only being a parent right now. 'My soul left my body' Adriana from Warwick, Rhode Island (She asked that her last name not be used) The only reason I waited only two hours in the ER is because my son stopped breathingEveryone rushed to take care of him.
His oxygen levels were at 73My youngest caught RSV at 7 weeks old. My soul left my body when I was in the hospitalI saw there was a respiratory therapist, a pediatrician and two nurses, that they lay down my baby and they started suctioning all the mucus because he was so stuffy, he couldn't breathe.
They put him on oxygen. I couldn't believe how lucky we were that he responded to the treatment as fast as he did. Now, I always carry a little oximeter with meIf he gets stuffy or anything like that, I put that on his fingerThat's part of my diaper bag. Between my son being hospitalized for one night and the two kids' deductibles and co-payments, we are $3,000 in debt, just from September until today.
He was given just two doses of Tylenol at the hospital and that was almost $300. Every time I call the pediatrician's office, they pretty much triage us over the phone to see if the child is sick enough to grant a visit because of how slammed they areI have been constantly redialing for several minutes just to get through.
When you go into the office, you can see they're all very tired. I think that anything that has to do with kids lately in the country is being overlookedThere's still the formula shortageA lot of parents like me, we're still struggling to find the right formulaI drive all around Rhode Island to find it, and I'm lucky if I can get two cans.
My baby is allergic to cow milk protein, so it's not like I can just get him any formula. We usually fly back home for the holidays -- I'm from Puerto RicoBut this year we just stayed homeIt was a bummer for my oldest because he's used to spending the holidays with the grandparents. 'We did not visit our home (country) the last three years' Mahbubur Rahman from Bonney Lake, Washington In the last three months, we got five colds, four ear infections, visited urgent care 10 times and the emergency room four times, once while my kid was sick with RSV.
In the last two years, my child had a cold only once. This is our first childHe's a Covid child -- he's not exposed to anywhere because we stayed at home for the last two yearsWhen we started sending him to preschool then this started happening, all things are coming together: face the fear of Covid, viruses like the flu and then, RSV. My child had a febrile seizure.
His temperature cannot go past 102 and we need to continuously use Tylenol and ibuprofen just to control itThis is happening like every other weekWe prepared our car with emergency things for if we need to stay at the hospitalWe always pack our bag and put it in our car -- like it still is there. I am working from home and my wife is not working.
Still, we feel like we are exhaustedIn the last two months, I think I did like 50% of the work that I usually doWhen my son and wife had RSV, my manager actually just told me to manage time whenever I can work, and it does not need to be 9 to 5. For the holidays, we had a plan to go back our country, Bangladesh, but we had to cancel the trip.
We did not visit our home the last three yearsI did in 2019 before Covid and never went back because my wife was pregnant and then my child was born. I hope that this will go away, and everything will be better this yearBut the fear and the emotions, I think will not go away pretty soon. 'We've been on this never-ending journey since October' Stephanie Archinas-Murphin from Lakewood, California My 3-year-old daughter started preschool in September and sure enough she got three viruses -- RSV, rhinovirus and pneumonia -- all at the same time.
She spent four days at the hospital, and it was hell watching her going through it. It's very heartbreaking to just have her come out and experience the worldAnd now all these things are happening with her getting sickWe want to have a different experience for her. We pretty much got everything.
My older daughter got the flu, so did my husband and myselfWe've been on this never-ending journey since October. When my youngest was ill, she had to be out for three weeksMy husband was out for two weeks just to be able to take care of herBut when we got hit by the flu after Thanksgiving, my husband didn't have any time off left.
I have a private practice and don't get PTO, but I had to take the brunt and cancel my clientsThat was a dent in our income because I didn't have any payThankfully, I have some savings, so that helped a lot. When I was low on Motrin and my daughter Morgan had the flu, I happened to post it on Instagram.
My relative asked if I want some and even dropped off Motrin for me and drove from almost 40 miles awayIt was so heartwarming to know that there are people out there who are looking out for me. I'm all about taking it one day at a timeI don't want to overwhelm myselfI'm not going to stop planning or going out, but I'm being mindful that things may change. The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros.
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