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SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

Passeig Sant Joan de Déu, 2, 08950 Esplugues de Llobregat

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"I felt informed and supported every step of the way, seeing how my daughter was receiving the best care in the Intensive Care Unit"

Baby and mother in a rehabilitation consultation

Cristina, the mother of a baby who has recovered from severe acute bronchiolitis, talks about her experience in the ER and ICU at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital.

It's hard to imagine when you look at a healthy María now, but this baby was on the verge of death from a respiratory virus just three months ago. María was brought to the emergency room when her mother, Cristina, noticed that the little girl was having difficulty breathing and decided to take her to the hospital. "My father, who is a doctor, immediately warned me and we didn't hesitate to jump into the car to come here. However, the situation escalated in a question of minutes and María stopped breathing", says the still frightened mother. 

The team immediately attended to the baby, who was only three weeks old and in cardiorespiratory arrest, when they made it to hospital. "The emergency and pediatric ICU teams treated my daughter immediately and managed to resuscitate her in just a few minutes, fortunately successfully", Cristina says "My father is a pediatric surgeon and within the first few hours of María's treatment he told me that I could rest assured because the team was so professional", she adds.

After the first emergency intervention, the baby's condition—serious because of an acute bronchiolitis with complications—required admission to the pediatric ICU at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital. "I was in the PICU for over a week and I hardly left at all", explains Cristina. "I only stepped out to eat or pray a bit in the chapel during the times I couldn't be with María. I felt informed and supported every step of the way, seeing how my daughter was receiving the best care", she concludes. Because of her religious convictions, Cristina asked to have María baptized early in her stay in the PICU, a request that the Spiritual and Religious Care Service quickly facilitated. 

María's condition: a rare but severe complication of acute bronchiolitis

Ignacio del Castillo Velilla, one of the doctors who treated María, explains that her case illustrates the worst case scenario that can result from acute bronchiolitis caused by the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) "This virus, an infection that in adults and older children is like a common cold, can be severe in very young children (as was the case with María, who was less than a month old). Other risk factors are prematurity, related heart disease or bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Of those admitted to the PICU for acute bronchiolitis associated with RSV, 10-20% suffer respiratory apneas (particularly those with pre-existing conditions) and 1-3% experience respiratory arrest, which is rare but extremely serious".

After her initial admission to the PICU, the neurology team contacted the family to follow up the evolution of María, who was discharged when she was just a month old. The physiotherapy team also recommended monitoring the baby's respiratory evolution as well as her physical recovery following her admission to intensive care. However, the situation soon took a turn for the worse and María had to be admitted again, this time because of a rhinovirus. 

"Her condition wasn't as serious this time, but María had to be admitted to the PICU again because she had not yet fully recovered from the first virus and was having trouble breathing again", explains Cristina. "It was during this unexpected readmission that I started to notice the psychological consequences of having watched my daughter's cardiopulmonary arrest earlier. The PICU medical and nursing team quickly picked up on the situation and offered me psychological support, something I was very grateful for", she says. "The nursing team was extremely attentive throughout: I want to thank them for their efforts, as well as the attention to difficult situations that we received from the medical team. It was a privilege to have my daughter treated at this hospital", adds Cristina.  

Several hospital services are now monitoring María's health, including the Neurology and Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy departments. "María has experienced an extremely serious situation for such a young baby, and I've gained a powerful life experience in hospital where experience and the technology available saved my daughter's life", concludes Cristina. "I would also like to use our testimony to raise awareness of what a serious case of RSV is like so that, as a society, we understand the risks it can pose for a baby as young as María".