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Toddler hospitalized with multiple respiratory viruses 'uncommon', doctor says

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A 15-month-old girl from Calgary is in hospital in Edmonton after contracting three respiratory viruses, a situation doctors say is uncommon.

Ainsley is on an ECMO, or heart and lung bypass machine, to get oxygenated blood to her heart. She is sick with respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, an adenovirus and rhinovirus, her parents told CTV News Edmonton in an interview on Friday.

They say Ainsley first contracted RSV when she was six weeks old, which left her with a rasping cough.

On Nov. 15, Ami Pineault noticed her daughter’s cough was worsening.

She says she took Ainsley to a specialist on Nov. 16.

That night her daughter collapsed in her arms. She called 911.

“While she was at the children’s hospital in Calgary, things just kind of started to deteriorate rather quickly,” Ainsley's dad Jayson Bergmann recalled.

Ainsley was put on a ventilator, but she needed to be on the ECMO machine.

According to Alberta Health Services, the provincial ECMO program is located at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, so Ainsley was flown by STARS Air Ambulance to Edmonton.

AHS says it is standard practice to move children to the Stollery if they require the ECMO machine.

“I think it’s been about 16 days now that she’s been on the machine,” Bergmann said on Friday.

Ainsley on her first birthday. (Credit: Ami Pineault)

But even with the specialized care, Ainsley faced challenges.

On Dec. 3, she accidentally became detached from the machine, causing a lack of oxygen to her brain.

“They did CPR for an hour,” said Pineault. “They don’t know what kind of brain damage is there because they have to keep her on … so much [medication].”

On Friday, the family learned that Ainsley was finally ready to be removed from the ECMO machine.

“Today is really good news that they’re moving forward to try and get her off of it,” Bergmann said.

The toddler will be kept on a ventilator, and will undergo a brain scan on Saturday to check for brain damage from lack of oxygen.

“She’s come a long way in the last week and a half, she’s definitely a fighter.”

THREE VIRUSES AT ONCE UNCOMMON, DOCTOR SAYS

An Edmonton doctor says Ainsley’s case is unusual.

“Three viruses at once is fairly uncommon, that’s not something that we see often,” Dr. Tehseen Ladha, pediatrician and professor at the University of Alberta, told CTV News.

“It’s exceedingly rare to end up on ECMO with any of these three viruses alone.”

But she added it has been a tough year for children.

“This season we’ve definitely been seeing more coinfections, and when I see coinfections, I mean children who are infected with more than one virus.”

“We’re seeing influenza rates that are much higher than the average year’s peak, so pediatric hospitalizations from influenza are higher now than they usually are at the peak of hospitalizations for influenza.”

Ladha says doctors have been fighting for preventative measures to stop the spread of the viruses.

“Sure, kids will get viruses, but this is not a typical season,” she said.

“It’s so important that we mitigate some of this transmission to reduce the number of children who end up in the hospital or end up with severe outcomes.”

'LIFE IS ON PAUSE'

Pineault and Bergmann have three other children at home in Calgary. They’ve been driving home every three days to spend a day with them, before returning to Edmonton to be with Ainsley.

They’re staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton, but between gas, food, child care, and interrupted income, they say the trips to Edmonton have been costly.

“With Ami and I being here, our incomes aren’t quite what they were before all of this, and I wish bill collectors would just understand the situation,” Bergmann said.

Fifteen-month-old Ainsley is on an ECMO machine, which takes the blood out of her body and oxygenates it before putting it back in. (Credit: Ami Pineault)

A family friend has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover their expenses.

“The GoFundMe is there I guess to help life keep going while life is on pause right now.”

As they wait to see how Ainsley will improve, the couple has advice for other parents.

“Hug your babies,” Pineault said.

“It’s hard to say, but at times like this, for us, there might not have been a tomorrow,” Bergmann added.

“Don’t ever push something off. Try to get your little ones addressed as soon as you can.” 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb.

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