As the coronavirus pandemic spreads throughout the world, countless gut-wrenching stories have emerged of families battling the COVID-19. Schools have closed, social distancing guidelines have been implemented, and we’re staying at home.
For some families who have followed all the rules, it tragically still hasn’t been enough. That’s the story of the Zimmerman family, who live in Colorado. Their four-year-old son, Lincoln, contracted the illness and his mom describes watching her son struggle to breathe as “torture.”
Family Followed All The Rules, Son Still Got COVID-19
Anna Zimmermann is a neonatologist in Denver, Colorado. She is describing what she calls the “torture” of watching her young son struggle to breathe while battling COVID-19.
“Since March 12, the kids have not left the house,” she wrote in a blog post on her website, Mighty Littles. “My husband went to Costco once. I went to Target once. My kids never went on a playdate. I wouldn’t let them go across the street to talk to their neighborhood friends. We adopted the stay-at-home recommendations early and stuck to them. We did everything right. But Lincoln got sick.”
Zimmerman said her son, Lincoln, who is just four years old had no idea what coronavirus was when he was he was admitted to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. His mother works as a neonatologist there in the NICU.
Doctor Tells Her Story Watching COVID-19 ‘Torture’ Her Four Year Old Son
“At the time of admission, he needed 2 Liters (L) of oxygen. That same night, he progressed up to needing 4L. By the next day, he was on 6L and then 9L,” Zimmermann wrote. “He was working so hard to breathe – using all of the muscles in his chest, abdomen, and neck to help him breathe. As a doctor, I knew he was working hard to breathe. The medical terms used to describe respiratory distress – seesaw breathing, nasal flaring, grunting, retracting, tachypneic – he had them all. As a mom, it was torture watching him struggle.”
Zimmerman said her son’s coughing fits scared her. She cried.
Zimmerman said Lincoln spent most of day sleeping and he completely lost his desire to eat and drink.
“He still has the WORST cough ever. He will cough up slime, and look totally air hungry. His saturations will drop and his heart rate will spike. ‘Mama, this isn’t worth it’. ‘Mama, when is this going to stop?’ ‘Mama, I don’t feel so good.’ ‘Mama, it is no use.’ ‘Mama, I’m not gonna go home.'”
How Lincoln’s COVID-19 Symptoms Started – I thought it was just allergies
Lincoln’s mom said that at first his illness didn’t make any sense, because the timeline wasn’t consistent with COVID-19.
It all started with a few sneezing fits.
He had mild symptoms, a stuffy nose and slight cough, for a week before spiking a 104.5 F fever. After taking him to his pediatrician who treated him with antibiotics and oxygen at home for a few days, Anna Zimmerman said she took four-year-old Lincoln to the hospital.
His chest x-ray presented like a run-of-the-mill respiratory virus. His CBC blood test didn’t show the low white blood cell count or low lymphocyte count that most pediatric COVID-19 patients get.
Just two days later, she said, she got the news no parent wants to hear: Lincoln’s coronavirus test had come back positive.
“It was definitely baffling when they said his test came back positive for COVID,” she said. “Literally, the things that run through your mind are: How? Why? When? Where? What?! Where could it have come from? And you start going through every little thing that you did. I honestly don’t know what the exposure was because nobody that we were around was sick, which means the exposure probably came from some asymptomatic person. We did walk around the block. So, could he have stuck his fingers in the mud and then picked his nose? Yes, absolutely. He’s a 4-year-old boy. But honestly, I just don’t know.”
The Reassuring Texts Stopped
The reassuring texts she had been receiving from coworkers stopped, Zimmerman said, as her fellow doctors ran out of ways to spin the situation in a positive light.
“I was talking with one of the physicians I work with,” Zimmermann said. “And you know, when Lincoln first got sick and had a fever, he would say, ‘It’s not going to be COVID. There’s so many other viruses out there right now.’ ‘Well, even if it is COVID, kids do really well with COVID.’ ‘Well, even though you’re in the hospital, you’re only on two liters.’ You know, like trying to give me all these positive reassuring texts. And that Wednesday and Thursday, he told me later, ‘Yeah, I didn’t have any positive reassuring texts to send back’ because we all knew how sick Lincoln was, but nobody was really saying how sick he was. He just kept going up on support. Up and up and up and up.”
Zimmerman said she was consumed with fear for her son and couldn’t sleep.
“How did this happen? How? I still don’t understand,” she said. “I cried for nearly four hours off and on that night. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t turn my brain off. I was terrified.”
Zimmerman says the isolation at the hospital was almost unbearable. She wasn’t allowed to leave Lincoln’s room and no one was allowed to visit.
“Despite the isolation here in the hospital, all around me, there has been a huge outpouring of support from our community. Both of our employers have been nothing but supportive.” Lincoln’s mother says. “Our school community put together a meal train to deliver dinner to Chris and the girls nightly – which turns out to be a Godsend since they can’t leave the house. Our neighbors dropped off healthy fresh berries at the house and sent a care package to me with shower wipes, face cleaning wipes, and dry shampoo. Did I mention I don’t have a shower???”
Nearly A Month After Lincoln Got Sick, He Finally Got Better
Then, nearly a month after Lincoln got sick, he got better, she said.
Lincoln was released from the hospital, and they are now giving the four-year-old oxygen treatments at home.
Lincoln’s mom has something to say about her experience with COVID-19.
“We live in a world where people are becoming more and more separate. More divided – by social status, by wealth, by politics, and by religion. If one thing is positive about our COVID journey, it is that our community came together to support us. People we barely know. People we don’t know. Friends of friends of friends.” Zimmerman says. “We are forever grateful and blessed because our community supported us. And no one blamed or shamed us for our son testing positive. I hope that this sense of community will persist after we move back towards our daily lives after COVID.”
“Please stay safe. Please stay healthy. Please take this virus seriously – it is no joke. And please reach out to your friends and neighbors and friends of friends who are struggling through this pandemic.”
Family Followed All The Rules, Son Still Contracted COVID-19
Anna Zimmermann is a neonatologist in Denver, Colorado. Sheis telling the story of what she describes as the “torture” of watching her young son struggle to breathe while battling COVID-19.
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