Stanly County mother recounts scary four days for her one-month-old daughter hospitalized with RSV

An unseasonable surge of RSV is inundating hospitals across the United States.
Elsie Huntley is back home in her mother's arms-- where she should be-- at just under one-month-old.
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 7:12 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2022 at 8:59 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Pediatric hospitals across the country are dealing with a surge in RSV cases.

Stanly County mother Kailey Huntley wants parents to know it can happen to them, because it happened to her baby girl.

“We had a good couple first weeks at home and then big sister, she’s three, she came from school and just had one or two days of a runny nose,” Kaleigh said. “And then I started noticing some nasal congestion with Elsie.”

Kailey is a former ER Nurse, so knew the symptoms to look for.

“A cough developed and then she started to be lethargic,” she said. “Nasal flaring, being able to see ribs, breathing faster, really noisy even with suctioning. When she was difficult to wake up to eat, that’s a sign.”

At that point, she and her husband decided to take Elsie to Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital, where she would spend the next four days.

“Seeing the cannula on her little face and all the stickers, you kinda not forget what they look like with it all on, but it’s really hard to see,” she said.

RSV cases are rising across North Carolina.

Pediatrician Dr. Laura Sinai, of Pediatrics at Home, sees several reasons for this.

“The combination of having multiple viral illnesses simultaneously is making it worse, and the fact that we have a huge population of children who have not been exposed to all kinds of viruses means that it may continue to climb for a while,” Dr. Sinai said.

Dr. Sinai says there were very few RSV cases in 2020 because of social distancing and masking, and in 2021 when those measures went away, there was an unusual outbreak in August.

She says the virus tapered off by the winter of 2021.

This year, she says the RSV surge “is not a blip,” and it continues to climb.

“I think the real concern is that it’s not going to taper particularly, it’s going to continue to increase through the winter season,” Dr. Sinai said.

Here are some symptoms Dr. Sinai says parents can look out for:

  • Short of breath, breathing faster than normal
  • Turning down food due to inability to breathe
  • Really heavy movements of chest belly, pulling in skin below ribs, flaring nostrils
  • Pale, grey, blue coloring

Huntley feels relieved Elsie is doing okay.

She hopes her story could be a wake-up call for other families.

“We can’t all stay in a bubble, we can’t prevent everything, but just being mindful,” she said. “If you don’t want everybody coming over to your house that’s totally fine too. It’s your baby, so your rules.”

A spokesperson for Novant Health told WBTV in a statement:

We are seeing increased numbers of hospitalizations due to RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and influenza-like illnesses across all Novant Health hospitals. While we’re concerned these increases could impact our bed capacity, Novant Health has extensive surge planning in place and stands ready to activate, as needed. It’s important for our communities to know that we have the continued ability to care for them, and that they should seek care when they need it.

Related: Two Stanly County schools closed due to respiratory illnesses