Children sick with COVID and other bugs flooded hospitals in the fall. Doctors worry what winter will bring.

Asia's Tech News Daily

Nurse Kristen Brown cares for 6-year-old Jaxon Philiph, of Cedar Rapids. Jaxon was in the PICU after contracting COVID-19.

IOWA CITY, Iowa – It feels like winter came five months early to the University of Iowa's Stead Family Children’s Hospital, and the staff fears darker times could be coming soon.

The 190-bed facility is about two-thirds full during a typical fall. This year, it has been jammed with young patients since July.

Dozens have come in coughing, wheezing and feverish with COVID-19, which is sickening more kids than it did in the pandemic’s early months. Many more young patients have arrived with severe infections from other respiratory viruses, which normally do not strike in full force until late autumn or early winter.

Flu season is coming up, and no one is counting on a repeat of last winter’s reprieve from that annual scourge.

Jennifer Erdahl, nurse manager of the pediatric intensive care unit, said her staff is bracing for the current surge of young patients to continue deep into the winter. “It feels daunting and a little overwhelming that we're two months into it and we're still very busy — and we think we have months more to go.”

Jody Feipel, a nurse at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, talks with 10-year-old COVID Beau Harvey, who was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit.

Jason Carberry holds his son Rohen as he coughs and fusses in the pediatric intensive care unit. Rohen was hospitalized with RSV.

Early in the pandemic, she said, many of the children who were listed as hospitalized with COVID had come in to be treated for something else and happened to test positive for the coronavirus when they were admitted.

“That's not the case anymore,” she said. “We have completely healthy children who are not eligible for vaccination yet, getting COVID and being very sick here in the ICU. I think a lot of the population doesn't realize those things are happening.”

The 28-bed unit cares for many of Iowa’s sickest kids. During a normal autumn, it averages nine empty beds per day, but it has often been full lately. “It has been extremely stressful and emotionally taxing for all of us,” said Dr. Aditya Badheka, the unit's medical director.

The packed ward is familiar to many hospitals contending with a crush of young patients as the coronavirus and other bugs surged in late summer and early fall.

Iowa's largest children's hospital has allowed few outsiders to visit during the pandemic. Its leaders invited a USA TODAY team into the pediatric intensive care unit in early October to document how its staffers cope with the startling wave of young patients.

The children’s hospital, which moved to a new building in 2017, is designed to keep bustle behind the scenes. The intensive care unit's halls and nurse stations remain quiet, except for frequent beeps and tones alerting staff to possible problems.

Tubes and wires connect sick kids to machines that monitor their conditions and provide them with oxygen, medicine and food.

Patient rooms are fronted by glass walls and doors, which are kept closed when the rooms contain infectious disease cases. Doctors and nurses put on fresh gowns, goggles, gloves and face masks before entering those rooms. When they're done visiting a patient, they take the protective garb off and discard it, only to suit up again outside the next door.

Every morning, doctors, nurses, medical residents and other staffers gather in the hall outside each room to go over how the child is faring and what treatment is needed. A dozen or more people can be involved in each consultation, and the patients’ parents are invited to listen in and ask questions.

As soon as a child is released from the intensive care unit, housekeepers go in to clean. They can turn some rooms around in a half-hour or less, but it can take an hour-and-a-half to sanitize a room where a COVID-19 patient stayed. There is no time to waste, because another sick child probably will need the room as soon as it’s available.

Dr. Christopher Monson wears PPE as he resets a monitor to prepare for a COVID patient coming to the PICU at the University of Iowa Stead Children’s Hospital.

A rebound of infections

Many Americans hoped stories of packed hospitals would fade as the pandemic waned in early summer. The introduction of vaccines for adults was followed by plummeting case rates and soaring optimism. The late summer surge deflated such hopes.

Melanie Wellington, an epidemiologist for the hospital, said she expected COVID-19 and other respiratory ailments to rebound as the weather got colder, but she didn’t foresee the diseases spiking again so quickly.

Wellington blames the COVID-19 wave on the delta variant of the coronavirus and on the disappointing number of Americans who declined to be vaccinated. “When delta came along with increased transmissibility, we still had enough people who were vulnerable to infections that we’re seeing these very high case counts now,” she said.

Those cases include many more children than were infected in previous waves, she said. The official COVID-19 patient numbers don't include some patients who no longer test positive for the coronavirus but who struggle with the aftereffects of the disease, which can include inflammation of the heart and lungs.

The delta variant does not appear to be more dangerous to individual children, Wellington said, but kids are more likely to be infected because they’re out in the community and in school, mixing with people who might spread the virus. Kids younger than 12 aren’t eligible for vaccination, so they’re vulnerable.

Wellington acknowledged that most children infected with the coronavirus suffer few serious symptoms, but she said problems become more numerous as case counts climb. “Any time you have a group of people being infected, some portion of them are going to end up with severe disease,” she said.

A mother’s plea for public caution

Nearly 100 children have been hospitalized for COVID-19 at the University of Iowa Hospitals this year.

Beau Harvey is among them.

The 10-year-old from the northeast Iowa town of Independence is an energetic, vigorous kid, but he was born with heart malformations that required surgery. The family knew his condition made him susceptible to dangerous complications if he caught COVID-19.

Beau made it 19 months into the pandemic without being infected. He almost reached the day when children his age will be eligible for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shots, likely to happen this fall. His parents plan to have him vaccinated as soon as possible.

Then the delta variant ripped through Iowa as public precautions were relaxed. Masks were no longer required in his school, and kids exposed to the virus no longer had to stay home from classes.

First, one of Beau's sisters tested positive for the coronavirus. Then, on Oct. 4, he woke up with a sore throat. By that afternoon, he had a small fever. An at-home test showed he had the virus. Within two days, he was having trouble breathing.

His mother, Kelsey Harvey, asked Beau’s doctor if she should take him to the emergency room. No, the doctor said. Because of Beau’s underlying health issues, he advised her to take Beau straight to the University of Iowa Hospitals, 65 miles to the south.

That’s what she did.

The next evening, she sat by her son’s bedside.

“It’s hard, because he’s not comfortable. He’s sick, and he doesn’t want to be here,” she said. He’d been hospitalized before, but this time felt tougher. Pandemic-era visitor limits meant no other family members were around for moral support.

Beau, dressed in a gray baseball T-shirt, slept fitfully. He moaned and coughed underneath a clear plastic face mask, through which a hissing hose pushed oxygen to his mouth and nose.

Harvey said her son's infection shows why everyone should try to limit the spread. You can’t easily tell who might be susceptible to COVID-19 complications because they have a condition like Beau’s heart issue.

“He’s just like everybody else,” she said. “He can run around and play. He can play baseball. He can do all the things that other kids can, but he just takes five medications a day, and he has extra appointments.”

Harvey cried as she talked about lackadaisical public attitudes that allow the virus to run rampant, until it catches up with children such as her son. She’s stunned at how unwilling many people are to do their part. “It’s easy. Just wear a mask, try to stay away from people. Try. Just do small things,” she said, her voice cracking. “Just try a little bit.”

She noted how skeptics discount the seriousness of the situation, since the majority of people who catch COVID-19 survive. It feels like they don’t care about the minority who might die or suffer lasting symptoms, Harvey said. “If it doesn’t affect them directly, they’re not worried, you know what I mean?”

Her son would wind up spending more than a week in the hospital before being released to recover at home.

RSV adds to crush of patients

The other main respiratory bug filling pediatric hospital wards this year is RSV, respiratory syncytial virus. RSV usually causes mild cold symptoms, but it can bring on dangerous breathing problems in infants and toddlers, especially if they have underlying health conditions. Scientists have not perfected a vaccine against it.

In severe cases, kids with RSV wind up in hospitals, where they are put on oxygen lines or even ventilators. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 58,000 American children are hospitalized for RSV in a typical year.

This is not a typical year. Hospitals have reported unusual numbers of RSV patients during the summer and fall.

Dr. Cody Tigges discusses the care plan for Rohen Carberry with his father Jason Carberry. Rohen, who was born with Down Syndrome, was hospitalized with RSV.

Wellington, the epidemiologist, said the Stead Family Children's Hospital recorded 596 positive RSV tests from July through September, compared with zero and 10 during the same months in 2020 and 2019. She cautioned that health care providers may test more often for RSV this year, and the total could include children who were tested multiple times. But she said the figures reflect the current wave's sweep.

Wellington said RSV may be spiking because the virus was stymied earlier in the pandemic, when more people stayed home, wore masks and kept their distance from others in public. RSV and other viruses are roaring back, and there’s no sign they’ll let up before flu season threatens to add another wave of patients to the mix.

The spread could be especially bad if parents let children with symptoms continue normal activities, Wellington said. “If your kid has a head cold or is sick, don't take them out. Don't send them to school. Don't send them to the birthday party that they're desperate to go to. Don't take them shopping,” she said. “If a kid is sick, they should be at home.”

Hospital leaders have contingency plans to add beds if the crush worsens. The biggest challenge would be finding more staffers to care for the additional patients.

Like hospitals everywhere, the University of Iowa Hospitals struggle to hire and retain enough workers, from nurses and respiratory therapists to housekeepers and food-preparation workers.

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital, which has about 1,000 total employees, had 58 open nurse positions in mid-October, said Pam Johnson-Carlson, the facility's chief administrative officer. Because of short staffing, many nurses and other workers volunteered to take overtime shifts. Some postponed vacations. The hospital fills some shifts with temporary “travel nurses,” employed via national agencies, who cost about 50% extra per hour.

“This team has pulled together for what our patients currently need and what the team needs for support. So it’s tight, but they’re bonded together to help each other out,” Johnson-Carlson said. “How long they can continue to do this is another question.”

Nurse Mackenzie Riordan and Mike MacCormick an ECMO specialist help 6-month-old Evrett Sheffield, after a mechanical valve was placed in his heart. Evrett ‘s mother, Abby, created an Facebook group called “Evretts fight with Truncus Arteriosus!” to help raise awareness about his condition and long-term PICU stays. Evrett passed away Oct. 15, 2021.

‘It was ghostly for a while’

In the early months of the pandemic, the children’s hospital saw fewer patients than usual.

The original version of the coronavirus caused relatively few severe illnesses among children. Many surgeries were postponed, and the flu and other infectious diseases were reined in when schools were closed and many Americans stayed home or wore masks when they went out. By early summer 2021, it seemed like the crisis was fading.

“It was ghostly for a while,” said Kayla Kenady, a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit. “Obviously, now those tables are turned.”

The influx of patients shows no sign of letting up, she said. “It is nerve-wracking to anybody to think about what the winter might look like.”

Nursing in a pediatric intensive care unit is always stressful, because the young patients are so fragile, Kenady said. Some patients stay for several weeks or even months, and nurses spend hour after hour with the children and their families. They come to know each other on a deep level.

As she spoke, an eight-person team walked past, wheeling a hospital bed containing a baby hooked up to an ECMO machine, which takes over lung functions.

Kenady, who has worked in the unit two years, is used to such scenes. She has seen many amazing recoveries but also tragedies.

At first, she found it hard to accept when children in her care died. She said she can’t talk much about it to her outside friends, because doing so would violate patient confidentiality. So she journals about her experiences and finds comfort in her Lutheran faith.

“I believe there is a God. I believe there is an afterlife,” she said. “I believe there is a good place that they go to.”

One of Kenady's colleagues in the pediatric intensive care unit has firsthand experience with the stress patients' families face. Veteran nurse Mike MacCormick lost his daughter, Gabriella, to COVID-19 last January.

Evrett was born with Truncus Arteriosus, a congenital heart defect where the blood vessel coming out of the heart fails to separate.

Veteran nurse Mike MacCormick builds an ECMO pump for 6-month-old Evrett Sheffield. MacCormick lost his daughter, Gabriella, to COVID-19.

Gabriella was 24 and had developmental delays. She lived in a group home in Illinois when she caught the coronavirus in November 2020. The family had her transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals, where she was placed on an ECMO machine.

The machines have been lifesavers for many COVID-19 patients. But Gabriella died Jan. 2.

MacCormick has worked 13 years in the pediatric intensive care unit and helps run ECMO machines on the adult side of the hospital. He took several weeks off work after his daughter died, but he never considered quitting and looking for another profession.

He often thinks of Gabriella as he helps try to save others, including from the disease that took her life.

“These people are sick, and I need to take care of them. That's what I do. It's what I'm supposed to do,” he said. “I love this job. Being a PICU nurse, coming to this unit every day, is one of my greatest joys.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kids with COVID, RSV flooded hospitals. Why doctors worry about winter

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


Covid: Annual vaccines will be needed ‘for years to come', says Pfizer boss

© AFP via Getty Images GettyImages-1235837569.jpg It is likely that Covid vaccines will be needed for years to come in order to maintain “a very high level of protection”, the ... Read more »

Joe Biden to announce nationwide coronavirus battle plan

Joe Biden is set to announce new actions to combat the coronavirus, including a nationwide campaign encouraging vaccine boosters, an expansion of at-home tests and tighter restrictions on international travel. ... Read more »

Omicron and delta spell return of unpopular restrictions

The Associated PressFILE – A man takes part in a demonstration against the country’s coronavirus restrictions in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. The coronavirus’s omicron variant kept a jittery ... Read more »

FEMAIL taste tests Heinz Terry's Christmas Orange Mayonnaise

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo A Terry’s Chocolate Orange in your stocking and mayo on your Boxing Day sandwich are Christmas staples for many, but few will ever ... Read more »

Holyrood gets a taste for the finest Scottish lamb

The Scotch Lamb for St Andrew’s Day campaign was taken to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening when MSPs were given a chance to enjoy a plate of stew while ... Read more »

The hilarious reviews left by Americans after eating traditional roast dinners in London

There’s nothing quite like a good Sunday roast. A nice few slices of succulent meat, crispy potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, loads of veg and gravy smothering the lot. For most Londoners, ... Read more »

Jack Dorsey quits: Six of the Twitter founder's most defining moments

© Getty Images Bitcoin Conference Draws Cryptocurrency Fans To Miami He quit in the way he’s always made his biggest career announcements: on Twitter. “Not sure anyone has heard but, ... Read more »

Covid 19 Omicron: Mysteries of new variant could take weeks to untangle

A pandemic-weary world faces weeks of confusing uncertainty as countries restrict travel and take other steps to halt the newest potentially risky coronavirus mutant before anyone knows just how dangerous ... Read more »

COVID-19 Omicron variant | India's cricket tour to South Africa to be delayed at least a week: Report

File image of the Indian cricket team: Reuters India’s cricket tour of South Africa is likely to be delayed by at least a week amid emergence of Omicron, the new ... Read more »

Dutch COVID-19 quarantine ends for most S.Africa passengers -authorities

Dutch health authorities find 61 passengers who arrived from South Africa as COVID-19 positive, in Amsterdam AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Dutch health authorities said that more than 20 passengers who have been ... Read more »

GSK Omicron-fighting drug cleared by UK regulators

So far the UK government has ordered 100,000 doses of the drug from GSK. Photo: REUTERS/Matthew Childs A drug developed by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK.L) has been authorised by UK ... Read more »

With omicron already in California, here's what US labs are doing to track cases and stop its spread

With the nation's first case of omicron identified in California, public and private labs nationwide are scouring virus samples to learn how far the new coronavirus variant has traveled. While ... Read more »

First case of Omicron variant case found in mainland France

French immunologist Jean-Francois Delfraissy addresses the media in the courtyard of the French Interior Ministry in Paris PARIS (Reuters) –France on Thursday reported its first case of the new Omicron ... Read more »

GSK says tests show antibody drug works against Omicron

FILE PHOTO: The GSK logo is seen on top of GSK Asia House in Singapore By Ludwig Burger (Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline on Thursday said that a lab analysis of the ... Read more »

Strangers donate breast milk after mom of newborn dies of COVID-19

Megan Richards, a mom of six, had planned to provide breast milk for her youngest child, 5-month-old Myles, through his first birthday. Richards died last month due to complications from ... Read more »

Using processed food items? This may lead to diabetes, obesity

© Provided by Zee News As much as 68 per cent of food and beverage products currently available in the Indian food market have excess amounts of at least one ... Read more »

Anxiety: Try this 3-3-3 Rule to Reduce Anxiety

© Provided by News18 Anxiety: Try this 3-3-3 Rule to Reduce Anxiety An excellent mental health is still far from being a priority for the people. A lot of people ... Read more »

How to manage auto-immune disorders with yoga

Read more »

You may be told to work from home again in fight against Omicron, leading expert warns

WORKING from home might become the norm again as the UK battles the Omicron variant. Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said the measure could still be used in England, even though ... Read more »

Biden picks less strict COVID travel rules than feared, makes insurance cover rapid tests

President Joe Biden proposes a “winter plan” for traveling Americans in response to the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. Jim LoScalzo / Pool via CNP /Med President Biden on ... Read more »

Can you get chickenpox twice?

CHICKENPOX is largely seen as a common childhood disease which is usually relatively harmless but it can cause more serious issues if adults catch it – and it is possible ... Read more »

Israeli PM slammed for family trip amid travel restrictions

On Location: December 1, 2021 Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett came under fire Thursday after his ... Read more »

The sleep hack that REALLY works – and will help you live longer

SLEEP is one of those things that everyone says they should get more of, but fail to do so. Experts say there is one sleep hack that trumps them all ... Read more »

4 more international travellers test COVID-19 positive at Delhi airport: Officials

Four more travellers from “at-risk” countries tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here on Thursday, officials said. Three out of the 243 people on ... Read more »

COVID-19 Omicron variant: RT-PCR mandatory for international travellers arriving in Delhi

Delhi airport file image: Reuters International travellers arriving in Delhi will mandatorily have to undergo RT-PCR test at the airport, state Health Minister Satyendar Jain said on December 2. “RT-PCR of every ... Read more »

Uttar Pradesh issues revised travel guidelines amid rising Omicron threat

(Image: AFP) Uttar Pradesh has joined the league of states to introduce fresh restrictions in the wake of growing threat from the Omicron variant of coronavirus. According to the guidelines ... Read more »

New Covid drug Sotrovimab that cuts risk of death by nearly 80% is approved in UK

A NEW Covid drug that cuts the risk of death by nearly 80 per cent has been APPROVED in the UK. Sotrovimab has been given the green light as it's been ... Read more »

US white supremacists groups are spreading vaccine misinformation to Aboriginals to do them ‘harm': Premier

White supremacists groups from the US are spreading vaccine misinformation to Aboriginal communities because they “want to harm” them, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan says. The premier attended a roundtable ... Read more »

Trump had positive COVID test before event with Gold Star families: book

Shortly after he contracted COVID in fall 2020, then-President Donald Trump suggested he may have gotten the virus from a White House event with Gold Star families with whom he ... Read more »

Hundreds of thousands of people with HIV are still dying every year – and it's entirely preventable

Thanks to breakthroughs in medical science, HIV has been a manageable condition for more than 20 years. Despite this, people are still dying from AIDS across the world in alarming ... Read more »

German leaders huddle to finalise emergency Covid plan

Chancellor Merkel and her designated successor Scholz must tackle record Covid infections in Germany (AFP/Tobias SCHWARZ) Chancellor Angela Merkel and her designated successor Olaf Scholz will meet German regional leaders ... Read more »

Gallery Hyundai presents Korea's experimental art at Art Basel Miami

“Untitled” by Lee Seung-taek (Gallery Hyundai) After 15 years of trying, Gallery Hyundai has finally made it to the prestigious Art Basel, where it will present works by Korea’s prominent ... Read more »

Mabuza says global solidarity needed to tackle scourge of HIV and Aids

© Presidency Deputy President David Mabuza at the commemoration of World Aids Day held at Saselamani Stadium in Xikundu Village, Limpopo Province. JOHANNESBURG – Deputy President David Mabuza said that ... Read more »

EXCLUSIVE: Aditi Govitrikar on the skin & haircare routine she swears by, product she can't do without & more

© Provided by Pinkvilla Aditi Govitrikar went from obstetrician/gynaecologist to model and then actor. The mother-of-two has been part of films like De Dana Dan and Smile Please so far. ... Read more »

The pandemic body: how the Covid era changed us – from hair loss to weight gain

This year, out of nowhere, my left heel has started hurting. Is it the onset of some degenerative condition, a normal byproduct of ageing, or simply pandemic life, I wonder. ... Read more »

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: Over 80.35 lakh jabs given on December 1

A healthcare worker gives a dose of the COVISHIELD vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), manufactured by Serum Institute of India, to a farmer in his field, during a door-to-door ... Read more »

Omicron variant does appear to be more transmissible than Delta - Prof Mahdi

© Provided by CapeTalk Omicron Covid-19 variant does appear to be more transmissible says vaccinologist Prof Shabir Madhi © Provided by CapeTalk Copyright: phonlamaiphoto /123rf How much more transmissible and ... Read more »

What's the status of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the US?

The Associated PressWhat’s the status of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the US? (AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin) What’s the status of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the U.S.? It’s on hold ... Read more »

White House: We're exhausted from the coronavirus too

WASHINGTON — “We are all sick and tired of this virus,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday, just minutes after the first U.S. case of the new ... Read more »

Brain problems found in 1 percent of hospitalised COVID-19 patients; real-world data shows Moderna vaccine highly effective

Vials of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines (File Image Source: Reuters) The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic