My Baby Contracted RSV: A Parent’s Nightmare (With a Happy Ending) | From the Good Dads Podcast

My Baby Contracted RSV: A Parent’s Nightmare (With a Happy Ending) | From the Good Dads Podcast

Recently on the Good Dads podcast, we welcomed Tim Lewis to the studio. Tim is a new dad to four-month-old Ophelia, a happy baby who gave Tim and his wife, Chelsea, a big scare late last year when she contracted Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

This week on the Growing Good Dads blog, we’re recapping our conversation with Tim in blog form. You can listen to the full podcast episode on our website or on your favorite podcast app.

Tim’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.

 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a first-time dad. My wife, Chelsea, works in medical sales, and I’m a barber. We live in Rogersville, but we both work in Springfield. We have a new daughter named Ophelia, who was born in September. We’re older parents, too. I’m 44 and Chelsea is 40.

 

You and your wife said for a long time that you were not interested in having kids, and you hadn’t previously pictured yourselves as parents. What precipitated that change?

We had finally bought our first home together, and we were sitting around during Christmas time watching kids open up presents by the tree in Christmas movies. We were like, “I don’t know, I think we might want to experience that.”

We gave it a lot of thought for about a year and a half. We figured we weren’t getting any younger. If this was something we wanted, we’d better get on it! And then we started trying. We had a miscarriage. We found out why, got to the bottom of it, fixed it—and got pregnant again within a month.

 

How is life different now that baby Ophelia is here and you’re a dad?

A lot has changed! You don’t get near the sleep you want!

In a sense, life’s not a lot different. But in another sense, it is. For instance, Chelsea and I were used to doing what we wanted, where we wanted, whenever we wanted. That’s not an option anymore. Having a baby is a huge responsibility: You’re no longer just responsible for yourself. It’s a big change.

 

How similar is having a pet to having a kid? Does having a fur baby prepare young people at all for a child?

I wouldn’t put the two in the same category, but if your mind is going that way—then yeah, definitely get a pet first. Children are such a huge responsibility, and pets do a way better job taking care of themselves than babies.

My advice for young people: If you’re not sure if you want kids yet, enjoy your youth a little bit. Your free time is minimized once you have a child, that’s for sure. In my personal experience, I was not ready to be a dad when I was in my 20s or 30s. Everyone is different, but I definitely made the right choice for me.

Tim Lewis with his daughter, Ophelia, at home in Rogersville, MO.

 

Over the holidays, Ophelia contracted RSV. Tell us how all that went down.

She was just shy of three months old when she got it. I think she probably got it at daycare, but who knows? She just developed a bit of a cough, and we both kept an eye on it. Later, we were like, “Nah, she needs to go to the doctor.”

RSV attacks your breathing. She started with a crackle of a cough, and by that evening she was diagnosed with it. Our doctor told us to keep her hydrated. But how do you keep an infant hydrated when she refuses to eat?

We did what was essentially a FaceTime call with a nurse from our home so the nurse could watch Ophelia’s chest rise and fall. And about that time, she developed a wheeze, too.

She was working really hard to breathe. By that evening, we took her to the ER, where they got her hooked up on oxygen and gave her fluids.

And we ended up having to go to Kansas City because hospitals didn’t have any room for her in Springfield. Chelsea and Ophelia got on a private plane and flew to Kansas City, and me and my mom followed them by car.

Honestly, Ophelia was fortunate, given she was only hospitalized for a couple days. She snapped out of it pretty quick once she got assistance breathing and got some fluids in her.

It takes some kids her age much longer to get over the sickness, sometimes two weeks or more. It was still very serious, but it could have been worse.

 

What was the scariest part of all that?

I’d have to say, although I wasn’t afraid for her life—I really felt she would be okay—but when the flight nurses came in and strapped my 13-pound child to a gurney-looking thing and took her away … Which, my wife was with her, but, you know, it was just terrifying.

Like I said, I never felt like I was going to lose her, but there’s no way to prepare for seeing your infant strapped on a gurney. That would have to be when I was most terrified. Chelsea and I were both crying. After my wife and the baby left, my mom broke down crying, too.

But once we got to Kansas City, I immediately felt at ease because the children’s hospital in KC is excellent.

 

How long were you in the hospital, and what was it like to come back home afterward?

She was in the hospital about two days. She was still in pretty rough shape the first night, but by the next morning she was doing quite a bit better. The hospital staff slowly lowered the amount of oxygen to see how she reacted. By the following evening, they took her off the oxygen completely, and she was breathing on her own through the night.

We arrived on Friday, and we drove home midday Sunday, New Year’s Eve. She still had a little crackly cough, but the doctors described it as a “productive cough,” and she got better after that.

I’m no expert, but I bet she’s got a pretty good immune system. She bounced back pretty quickly.

 

So now you and your wife are back to not getting enough sleep?

Right! I mean, it’s not too bad. That’s just part of life with a baby. We’ve been pretty lucky with her. Believe it or not, she usually sleeps five to six hours at a time.

 

We’re now more than a month out from this, and perhaps you and your wife haven’t totally processed all of what happened, but do you feel like that experience brought you closer as a couple?

I think me and my wife have always had a pretty good relationship. We were there for each other through it all. For example, we’d take turns looking after Ophelia while the other slept because we didn’t want to take our eyes off her while she was in the hospital.

 

Now that Ophelia is four months old, are you starting to see her personality shine? How do you describe her personality?

She’s always a pretty happy kid. She really started all that at about three months. But she’s also a very impatient, cranky child. How do you go from grinning at me, and two seconds later you’re squalling?!

I get impatience from both my mom and dad’s side. I can be impatient. My wife’s definitely more patient than me, so Ophelia probably gets it from me!

 

How are you and Chelsea’s parenting approaches or philosophies similar or different? Do you and your wife parent well together?

We both work together and want to be on the same page. We are in pretty good agreement about how to raise the child. I’d say we’re on the same page with most everything; I can’t think of anything we don’t agree on, as far as parenting goes. Then again, we’re only four months in!

 

What advice do you have for dads of very young children, perhaps something you wish you had known sooner?

Patience. It’s easier to get frustrated with a child. But when she’s crying, there’s obviously something wrong. That’s one thing I’ve had to learn. Try to be as comforting to your baby as you can. Use common sense, and you’ll do just fine.

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