Less than three months after welcoming twin boys, Amanda and Ed Bystran lost one of them to RSV – now they are hoping their other son recovers from the same virus.
Amanda Bystran gave birth to twins Brodie and Silas on August 15.
“We couldn’t wait for them to arrive. My older kids were just so happy they were going to have babies in the house,” said Amanda Bystran, who has four other children. “They couldn’t wait to meet and hold them. They were actually born on my 8-year-old’s birthday,” she told CNN.
The twins were born prematurely at 34 weeks and struggled from the beginning. They made it out of a neonatal intensive care unit after two weeks and then recovered from Covid-19 and meningitis in September, their mother says.
The Bystrans were hoping their twins had turned a corner, but in mid-October both developed congestion and coughing.
The worried parents, who live in Catlett, Virginia, took them to their pediatrician – where they tested negative for RSV and the flu on October 17 and were told their twins most likely had the common cold, Amanda tells CNN.
“They sent us home but then, around Thursday, Brodie got rapidly worse. He was really congested and was really struggling to pass mucus. It was like nothing we’ve ever seen,” Bystran said. “He deteriorated so quickly. It’s like one minute he was fine and the next minute he was fighting for his life.”
Almost all children catch RSV at some point before they turn 2, but parents should be especially cautious if their children are preemies, newborns, children with weakened immune systems or neuromuscular disorders, and those under age 2 with chronic lung and heart conditions, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Bystrans decided on October 20, to take Brodie to Inova L.J. Murphy Children’s Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia, an hour away from their home.
This time a doctor informed her that Brodie had tested positive for RSV and would be admitted to the hospital, Amanda said. The family waited 12 hours in the emergency room before Brodie was transferred to a bed in the pediatric surgical unit. They then waited 16 hours before he was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit, Bystran says.
“They were so full. The entire pediatric ward was full of RSV cases. It was horrific,” she said.
The hospital has been operating at or near capacity for the last few days, Tracy Connell, a spokesperson for the Inova Children’s Hospital told CNN on Thursday. The hospital also put out a news release saying it has activated its “Internal Emergency Operations Plan” to help deal with the high volume of patients who were coming in with respiratory viruses like RSV and influenza – but assured the public it was equipped to handle the surge.
Bystran accompanied her son during most of his stay at the hospital and watched as doctors tried different oxygen treatments, she says. On the morning of October 22, things took a turn for the worse and she asked for additional help after noticing that the oxygen treatments were not working and Brodie was still struggling to breathe, she says.
“They decided to intubate him, so I stepped out so they can work on him,” Bystran said. “Then 20 minutes passed by, and a nurse came to tell me that his heart rate had dived and they have been doing CPR on him for the last 10 minutes.”
Bystran quickly asked her husband and in-laws to rush to the hospital, but they were unable to make it before Brodie died, she says.
“My heart has been shattered into a billion pieces. No mother should ever have to plan a funeral for her baby. He should have outlived me. This boy didn’t even get to see three months old. It’s not fair,” Bystran said when expressing her grief on Facebook.
The Bystrans’ nightmare isn’t over: Brodie’s twin, Silas, is still in the hospital trying to recover from RSV. He tested positive for RSV on October 21 at the hospital and was admitted a day after his brother, Bystran says. Unlike Brodie, Silas has also been diagnosed with pneumonia and was in the intensive care unit for about 16 hours, his mother says.
On Tuesday evening, Silas was transferred out of the intensive care unit, but on Wednesday he developed a fever overnight and needed assistance to raise his oxygen levels, Bystran says.
“We had a really tough night and he’s back to not doing so good. The doctors said RSV is a rollercoaster in that way,” she said. “They are okay one minute and then can go downhill quickly before stabilizing again.”
His family is hopeful he’ll pull through – but deeply saddened he won’t be able to grow up with his twin.
“Brodie was such a light. A beautiful little child. He was so wanted and loved. It was so sweet to see the bond he and Silas shared,” Bystran said. “They preferred to sleep together; they were always touching. It breaks my heart that I won’t be able to see them grow together. I’m afraid Silas will always feel this hole because he won’t have his twin brother.”
As the Bystrans mourn the loss of their son, they caution other parents to trust their instincts.
“If you feel like your child is getting worse and it’s not just a common cold, go straight to the hospital. Don’t wait, don’t think about it, don’t second-guess yourself,” Bystran said.