A North Texas couple spent Thanksgiving in the hospital with their infant son who’s battling a virus that has spiked among children since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tiny but tough, in his almost 4 months of life baby James Cardenas has overcome a lot.
“He’ll smile but when you’re messing with like they are right now trying to give him medicine, he'll raise an eyebrow and look at you at you like,” mother Joyce Cardenas said as she raised an eyebrow.
The Cardenas family contracted COVID-19 in August.
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The diagnosis was especially concerning because Joyce’s pregnancy was already considered high risk due to health issues.
She said she and her husband Jesse contracted breakthrough cases and both ended up in the hospital at the same time.
“I'll never forget that feeling of you not being able to breathe. I mean it's the scariest thing,” she said.
Cardenas was 29 weeks pregnant when doctors rushed in as her breathing became labored.
“I remember rapid response running in the room and at this point, my husband was a couple of doors down from me and he only knew that I was doing bad because he heard my room number on the room response,” she said.
Doctors placed the registered nurse from California on a ventilator. She would undergo an emergency C-section that day, waking up days later.
“It was horrible,” she said. “They’re like, 'Congratulations you had a baby,' and 'Oh, you just woke up.' And I'm like crying because I'm like, 'What just happened?'”
It would be a few weeks before she could hold her newborn and return home, only to rush back Tuesday. The family spent Thanksgiving at Children's Medical Center in Plano.
Her 8-year-old son and 4-month-old James both contracted RSV. The respiratory illness spiked over the summer and is especially dangerous for the preemie’s underdeveloped lungs.
“Basically, they're producing so much mucus once it starts going into the chest that's when it starts to get real icky and causing inflammation,” she said.
Some of the symptoms her kids experienced included becoming lethargic, loss of appetite and symptoms that mirror a cold or allergies. Her older son experienced mild symptoms compared to the baby.
Fortunately, all five family members are recovering and pulling for their littlest member who's already proven his strength.
“He is so feisty,” Joyce Cardenas. “One of the nurses says he's a baby with a grown person's attitude.”
The family has set up a gofundme to help cover medical costs.