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The big fight some of COVID’s smallest victims face

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:21 PM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A South Burlington family had quite a scare with a rare severe COVID infection in their infant.

You see baby Lilah now and she looks like any happy, healthy 4-month-old. But just a week ago, Lilah was very sick.

Mom Alicia Sherman and dad Seth Walker say the week of Christmas, their older daughter, 20-month-old Ari, also born in a pandemic bubble, was exposed to COVID at day care.

Soon, the entire family tested positive for the virus. Even the vaccinated and boosted parents were suffering from symptoms.

And by New Year’s Eve, baby Lilah was battling for her life.

“She woke up with a 102 fever and she was acting off. She wasn’t as happy,” Alicia said.

Reporter Christina Guessferd: When was the moment you realized ‘Something’s seriously wrong here, we need to go to the hospital?’

Alicia Sherman: I was holding her... and patting her back. And I could just tell she was struggling to breathe, and it’s not like she can say, ‘Mom, I’m having a hard time breathing’ ... So I took her to the ED and I’m really grateful I did.

That night, Seth stayed home with Ari while she slept.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my god, is this the last time I’m gonna see her?’ Like what is going on?” Seth said.

While the rest of the world rang in a new year, Lilah was hooked up to an oxygenator. There, doctors told the parents they were baffled by the severity of the baby’s respiratory distress.

Alicia Sherman: I think that was one of the most heartbreaking moments. Started making desperate prayers to whatever higher powers out there. Then I started making demands on those higher powers, too. I was like, ‘I’m not asking anymore, I’m telling.’

Christina Guessferd: What were you saying?

Alicia Sherman: Keep my child alive, get her through.

While many were waking up to 2022, Alicia got the news Lilah’s levels were normal.

Christina Guessferd: Was there a moment when you felt like ‘I can breathe.’

Alicia Sherman: I guess I did have a little relief like, ‘Yeah, it’s getting better,’ but I still feel like I’m still holding my breath.

“Every cough or gasp I probably lose the few strands here, whatever’s left turns a little bit gray,” Seth said.

UVM Children’s Hospital Dr. Amelia Hopkins says the pediatric ICU has admitted a handful of infants and adolescents with COVID symptoms and none have died. She wants to reassure parents the vast majority bounce back and she stresses rather than be alarmed, just be aware.

Christina Guessferd: Tell me what should parents be looking for in their kids for symptoms of respiratory distress?

Dr. Amelia Hopkins: Retractions, which is when children are working so hard to breathe, they’re using their belly, pulling in between their ribs. You can also be worried when you see flaring of the nostrils.

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Christina Guessferd: What do you want other parents with young kids to take from your story, to learn from your experience?

Alicia Sherman: If you’re worried, just go.

Christina Guessferd: Trust your gut instincts.

Alicia Sherman: Trust your instincts. I just don’t want someone else to second-guess themselves and have a worse outcome.

Dr. Hopkins agrees and says you can always call a physician if you think your child is in danger.

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