Emmett Sitzmann, photoIn their words

Holly Sitzmann
Cedar Falls, Iowa

Our son fell ill on the morning of October 29, 2019. He was transported from a Cedar Falls urgent care to a hospital in Waterloo with symptoms of severe respiratory distress and high fever. He was intubated and then airlifted to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

When Emmett, age 2-and-a-half, arrived at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, he was considered septic and his chest X-rays had shown signs of bacterial pneumonia. He had been intubated in Waterloo as he was showing signs of severe respiratory distress including strider (audible breathing difficulty) and had high levels of carbon dioxide. He had a fever through all of this as well. We were terrified because we had just experienced this same set of events with our infant daughter, Eleanor, less than 4 months prior to this and she unfortunately passed away after displaying similar symptoms. A viral panel was done upon Emmett’s arrival to the hospital and came back negative for all viruses tested.

Emmett was intubated for two days after being admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), days until he was able to tolerate breathing on his own more with oxygen support. On the day he was extubated, he took quite a while to come out of his sedation. Doctors expected him to come out of sedation and act normally well before he actually did. This prompted us to become concerned about his neurological function because he was not speaking, not swallowing and not interacting much with us. Because of this, Cody Tigges, DO, had one of the pediatric neurologists come to do an initial assessment on him. The neurologist was concerned about either viral meningitis, a throat abscess infection, or a brain stem infection.

An MRI and CT scan were done and came back clear. A second viral panel was completed, and it was determined that Emmett had contracted adenovirus on top of his bacterial pneumonia. He began to come out of his sedation a bit more each day and was eventually able to eat, swallow, and talk normally again. He was moved up to the regular pediatric floor on Day 6 of his stay at the hospital and we were discharged to go home on Day 7.

We did not want to leave the hospital without a plan in place to ensure that this sort of thing never happened again or we could at least take preventative measures for it. We met with pediatric pulmonologist Princy Ghera, MBBS, before we were discharged, and she helped us come up with an asthma action plan for Emmett's moderate to persistent asthma symptoms that tend to flare up when he comes down with a virus of any kind. Emmett inhaled a significant amount of fluid at birth and was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 24 hours. He also had RSV at 7 months old. After both of these events took place, he has seemed to be much more prone to moderate to severe respiratory infections when he gets a cold or virus. It's terrifying to us because many times he does not display serious symptoms of any kind and by the time he does, it's already to the point of him needing to be taken to the emergency room or hospital for breathing support.

We strongly encourage other parents to take their kids in to the doctor if they suspect even a little cold because it could turn into something life-threatening at the drop of a hat, especially if they are young. 

Our experience at UI Stead Family Children's Hospital was nothing short of incredible, especially during the worst possible time of our lives. All of the doctors are so knowledgeable and answered our questions to the fullest. They had conversations with us about what was going on and encouraged us to ask questions and take interest in any conversation involving our son and his care or treatment plan. The nurses were so friendly and welcoming; they always asked what we needed and what they could do to help. They absolutely, genuinely cared about Emmett and his comfort level, as well as ours as his parents.

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