“I delivered my second child, Zac, in June 2014. Unfortunately, he also suffered from jaundice and underwent UV treatment 24/7 on a phototherapy bed. In the end, Zac had to go onto the bed [that we rented for home] for almost four weeks. Needless to say, it was a very difficult month. Not only did I have to go through conﬁnement, I also had to comfort my confused and frustrated toddler, Aiden.
“Then Aiden started daycare. Problem was, he returned with a nasty bug a week later. It started with a cough and runny nose, and we took him to a GP, then a paediatrician and later, to our regular paediatrician — by then, what had seemed like a run-of-the-mill cough and cold had turned into bronchiolitis.
“That same week, Zac, who was all of 6 weeks old, started coughing. Because his airways were so small, he developed bronchiolitis, too. Just like that, I had two sick kids on my hands — one who coughed until he threw up all over himself and the bed, the other, who would cough until he was almost breathless.
“We were relieved that the boys were ﬁnally cleared of bronchiolitis, only for Aidan to get a viral fever. When the fever and its subsequent effects disappeared, we cheered, until Zac started showing the same symptoms!
“When both our boys seemed to ﬁnally be on the mend, my husband and I decided to take a break and go on a movie date. When we returned home, our baby was barely conscious — his breathing was laboured, he refused to nurse, nor did he respond to our voices. When he opened his eyes, he seemed to be looking right past us. We rushed him to the hospital with our toddler in tow. It was one of the worst nights of my life.
“I felt real terror and saw my fragile heart walking outside in the big bad world for the ﬁrst time. That night, I realised that I could only do so much to protect my baby.”
“My heart broke into a million pieces when the nurse brought Zac to me after inserting a drip into his tiny hand and taking vials of blood for tests. My poor little baby was clearly shell-shocked as his heart rate rocketed to more than 200 beats per minute (a regular baby’s is 80 to 160 bpm). No amount of coaxing or cuddling from me could bring it down. After a few tries, I was able to nurse him and his little body ﬁnally relaxed.
“In the hospital that night, Zac slept in my arms, while Aidan slept at my feet, clutching my legs for comfort. The nurses administered oxygen on my infant, measured his vitals every hour and took X-rays. That night, I hardly slept. That night, I felt real terror and saw my fragile heart walking outside in the big bad world for the ﬁrst time. That night, I realised that I could only do so much to protect my baby.
“It seems that Zac’s body was ﬁghting off two different respiratory infections — viral and bacterial — at the same time. We stayed in the high-dependency unit for two nights, until the paediatrician decided that his condition no longer required constant monitoring.
“Thankfully, our super trooper made a splendid recovery and was discharged a week later. But just when we thought we could heave a sigh of relief, Aidan came down with hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD). It was a mild case — he had slight rash on his body but his appetite remained hearty. Thankfully, the disease did not spread to his baby brother, but it got me — ulcers threw a pity party at the back of my throat. For a week, I could not drink nor swallow my saliva without feeling like my throat was burning.
“But I was just glad that the illness hit me and not my poor infant — I could not have endured more of my baby’s suffering.”
Long Li Yann, 35, an educator, is mum to Zac, 2, and Aidan, 4.