Ryan and Kristin Mickey – Live Deeply

We’re Ryan and Kristin Mickey, and this is how we’re living deeply with our four children: Silas (8), Corrigan (5), Tatum (3), and Deacon (4 months).

Kristin: “Deacon was born December 8th, 2021. The first couple weeks of his life were difficult due to a severe tongue tie which caused some major feeding issues; however, he was an otherwise healthy baby boy. Before we went in for his two-week checkup at the pediatrician three days before Christmas, I noticed that Deacon had started getting stuffy the day before. I didn’t think that much of it since he didn’t have a fever; it seemed to just be a cold that I assume he picked up from Tatum. At the checkup, the doctor decided to test Deacon for RSV (a common respiratory virus) just in case, and it came back positive right away. He explained that a lot of babies get RSV, and the majority work through it without any major concerns. He suggested we watch him a little closer than normal, help him sleep upright as needed, and suction secretions through his nose. He mentioned some things to keep an eye out for that would help us know if we needed to take Deacon to the ER. The one that stuck with me most was that if a baby is upset and won’t calm down, it could mean that he isn’t able to breathe through his nose. Since babies don’t know how to breathe through their mouth, they are only able to mouth breathe by crying. We went home feeling nervous, but I had no idea what we were about to encounter. Within an hour, we started getting really concerned because he was becoming increasingly fussy, foaming at the mouth a lot, and started looking really pale with a bluish tint. Ryan and I both agreed that he seemed to be getting worse really fast. I called the doctor’s office to explain everything we were noticing, and the doctor recommended we head to the ER. We quickly called a friend to stay with our older kids, then headed to the hospital. I was hoping, and even expecting, that he would just need a breathing treatment and/or steroids and that we would be there for a day or two at most. When we got to the ER, they immediately took us to triage and started taking his vitals.”

Ryan: “I dropped Kristin and Deacon off at the doors to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital ER and went to park the car. When I walked into the triage room, I could tell instantly something was wrong because there were already two nurses checking his vitals.”

Kristin: “Within seconds of taking a few of his vital signs, several more nurses joined us in the triage room. I could tell things were worse than I thought. I will never forget when one of the nurses turned to me and said, ‘You carry Deacon, we’ll get all your stuff, and you need to follow me.’ At first, she starts walking and I began following her, still fairly calm. Then her walk turned into a run so I started running as well. That was when I knew it was really bad. I started crying and heard her yell, ‘We’re going to T-1!’ At the time I didn’t know that T-1 was the closest trauma room. She did her best to help me stay calm but suggested we lay him on the bed and back up.  So I did just that. We just stood there  watching, crying and praying as a whole medical team surrounded Deacon. Fast forward maybe 20 minutes, they weren’t able to get him where he needed to be because he was not releasing CO2. The doctor explained that they were going to have to intubate him. That was the last thing I wanted to hear, but I knew I had no choice but to trust the medical professionals. Deacon was very difficult for them to intubate, but they were able to stabilize him and move us up to the PICU. The first night in the PICU, we started learning what to expect. We basically just had to wait out the virus and let it run its course, which hadn’t even gotten to its worst point, because there is nothing that can be done to stop it from attacking the body. Deacon struggled a lot, even on the ventilator, to keep his oxygen levels up. He would refuse to take breaths, so they were constantly using a bag with lots of pressure to get oxygen into him. His monitors were going off constantly the first couple days.”

Kristin: “About 36 hours after we brought Deacon to the hospital, in the middle of the night -the really early morning hours of Christmas Eve- he stopped breathing. One of his lungs was completely clogged with mucus while his other lung collapsed. He had a pneumothorax due to air leaking into the space between his lung and the wall of his chest from the pressure they were using to try to get him oxygen.”

Ryan: “Deacon was starting to crash. I remember his eyes. He had been asleep on major drugs and suddenly his eyes just opened wide. It was his way of saying, ‘Help me! I can’t breathe!’ I still have that image in my mind, and it’s awful. I was thinking, ‘I’m watching our baby die right now.’”

Kristin: “That was the worst moment of my life. For the next hour or so, we didn’t really know whether he was alive or not. When he stopped breathing, the doctor quickly explained that we needed to leave because they would need to turn his room into an OR. They had to put a tube into his chest to release the air so he could breathe again. Ryan and I sat in silence in a room down the hall. I don’t think either of us could communicate because we were both so terrified of what we thought we might have to live through next. I could only think about how I don’t know how to survive losing a child, and I just cried out to God to save him over and over.”

Ryan: “I was praying silently, and I don’t think there has ever been a time when I battled with God more than I did then. I was mad. I generally have a good spiritual perspective, but at that moment I was shaken. I felt like I was wrestling with God, saying ‘What are you doing here? Why is this happening? Save our boy!’ Of course, He did. But that night was the low point.”

Kristin: “Thankfully, we made it through that second night in the hospital, and we spent the next few days going through lots of ups and downs with Deacon as the virus ran its course. He was intubated for a week, so there were still another five days of him being on a ventilator in the ICU. Finally, it felt like the worst was behind us, and he slowly started making improvements. My parents had plans to come for Christmas anyway, but they came a day early as soon as they knew we were taking him to the hospital. They  ended up keeping our other three kids the whole time Deacon was in the hospital. Silas, Corrigan and Tatum all did great at home. They definitely didn’t understand how serious the situation was. We never showed them pictures or talked to them in detail about it because I didn’t want to scare them. On Christmas, I think my parents ended up letting them open one present, but for the most part, they waited to celebrate Christmas with great attitudes. We didn’t do our family Christmas until mid-January, and they were okay with that. We were in the hospital for 15 days total. Deacon struggled to come off the drugs, and he also had some digestive issues for weeks, Then, our whole family got COVID a couple weeks later. Needless to say, coming home was rough. Up until mid-February, things felt really hard. However, the number of people that surrounded us by taking care of our kids, bringing us food, and praying for us was incredible. People from CSPC we didn’t even know were sending us food and/or money. We had two meal trains: one for us every night at the hospital and one for my parents and our kids at home. My best friend, Abby Fennell, started a group text called Deacon’s Prayer Warriors. I would send updates to Abby, and she was able to keep people informed for us. I’ve never experienced community like I did during this time.”

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