Some of the most difficult to hear are those that involve children. And Dr. Anna Zimmermann, a neonatologist in Denver, Colorado, has just added her son’s story to this list.
“Since March 12, the children have not left the house,” she wrote in a blog post on her website, Mighty Littles. “My husband once went to Costco. I went to Target once. My children never went to play. I would not let them cross the street to talk to their friends in the neighborhood. We adopted the recommendations to stay home early and stuck to them. We did everything right. But Lincoln fell ill. “
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Zimmerman said his son Lincoln was four years old. He did not know what coronavirus was when he was admitted to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, where his mother works at the NICU.
“At the time of admission, he needed 2 liters (L) of oxygen. That same night, it increased to 4L. The next day, he was on 6L then 9L, ”wrote Zimmermann. “He worked so hard to breathe – using all the muscles in his chest, abdomen and neck to help him breathe. As a doctor, I knew he worked hard to breathe. The medical terms used to describe respiratory distress – breathing swing, nasal flaring, grunts, retraction, tachypnea – he had them all. As a mom, it was torture to see him wrestle. “
At the height of his illness, Zimmerman said that his son’s coughing spells were constant and terrifying. He lost the desire to eat and drink entirely, and slept for the vast majority of the day and night.
“He probably slept 20 to 21 hours a day,” she told CBS News. “You know, he woke up a few hours in the morning and maybe an hour in the afternoon, but otherwise he just slept. He couldn’t eat. All of her energy was breathing. And it was pretty scary to watch. “
Initially, she said, Lincoln’s timeline did not seem consistent with COVID-19, nor did its tests. He had had mild symptoms for a week before raising the fever. His chest x-ray looked like a common respiratory virus. Her CBC blood test did not show the low number of white blood cells or lymphocytes that most COVID-19 pediatric patients get.
But two days later, she said, things got worse when she learned that no parent wanted to hear: Lincoln’s coronavirus test came back positive.
“It was really confusing when they said that his test was positive for COVID,” she said. “Literally, the things that cross your mind are: How? Why? When? Or? What?! Where could it come from? And you start to go through every little thing that you have done. Honestly, I don’t know what the exposure was due to the fact that no one around us was sick, which means that the exposure was probably from an asymptomatic person. We went around the block. So, could he have put his fingers in the mud and then pluck his nose? Yes, absolutely. He’s a 4 year old boy. But honestly, I don’t know. “
Zimmermann said she cried for almost four hours the night of her son’s diagnosis. She said she couldn’t sleep and her heart broke when she heard Lincoln vocalize his pain.
“Mum, it’s not worth it,” she recalls. “Mom, when is this going to end? Mom, I don’t feel so good. Mom, it’s no use. Mom, I’m not going to go home. “
The reassuring texts she received from her colleagues also dried up, she said, while her medical colleagues lacked the means to change the situation in a positive light.
“I was talking to one of the doctors I work with,” said Zimmermann. “And you know, when Lincoln got sick and had a fever for the first time, he said,” It’s not going to be COVID. There are so many other viruses right now. “Well, even if it’s COVID, kids are doing very well with COVID. “Well, even if you’re in the hospital, you only have two liters.” You know, like trying to give me all these positive reassuring texts. And this Wednesday and Thursday, he said to me later, “Yeah, I didn’t have any positive reassurance to send back” because we all knew how sick Lincoln was, but no one was really saying how bad he was. was sick. He was just continuing to support. From top to bottom and from top to top. “
The isolation also wreaked havoc on Lincoln’s family.
“It was really difficult when you were in the hospital with your child not being able to hug your husband or hug your daughters – and not only reassure them, but have the comfort you are used to have in stressful situations, “said Zimmermann. “When I’m stressed, my husband hugs me. It’s really useful. And we couldn’t do that. “
But outside the hospital, the community has rallied to his family, she said. Her school set up a meal train to deliver evening dinners to her father and sisters at home. The family’s neighbors put fresh berries at home and sent Zimmermann a care package with shower wipes and dry shampoo because she couldn’t leave Lincoln’s hospital room – not even for take a shower.
Then, almost a month after Lincoln got sick, he got better, she said. The support he needed has diminished enough that Zimmermann can give the oxygen he needs at home for the rest of the time his body needs to heal.
“He’s doing very well,” Zimmermann told CBS News on Friday. “He is fully recovered. He runs in the garden with his sisters, out of his oxygen, to regain his normal appearance of 4 years. “
Now, she has said that she hopes her son’s story will serve both as a cautionary tale and as a comfort to other families faced with the prospect of a child infected with coronavirus.
“You see news: people are angry about being at home. Moms are angry that they have to send their children to school at home, “said Zimmermann. “We are frustrated that we have to stay at home. And so I wanted to write our story to say look, that’s why you do it. Yeah, it’s hard to be home with your kids 24/7. And yes, it is difficult to keep a job. And yes, we will lose some income. But look how sick my son got. And we did everything right. Then we followed right after: Look how sick my son got and he recovered again. ”