As I lay here on this hard hospital couch, where I have spent the past 10 nights tossing and turning, thinking and praying, crying and pondering... I look over at my 4 month old son (Austin) in his makeshift hospital crib. Tears flood my eyes as I try to envision the once lively, well-spirited, happy-go-lucky and independent little tyke that Austin has always been. My former child full of life and livelihood, now lays helpless, in a cold and unknown environment, with wires upon wires attached to his body, several intravenous and intraarterial lines coming from all facets of his fragile skin, as he clings to the machine that is currently breathing for him at this time. Let me rewind...

My name is Saundra, I'm from St. Petersburg, FL and I have 5 children, including 4 month old twins Austin and Allison.

Since about 2 months old, Austin has suffered with a condition called Laryngomalacia (a narrowing of his airway) which makes it difficult for him to breathe at times and presents with noisy breathing. It was described to me, by the extensive team of physicians that he sees for this condition- that it is like him breathing through a straw. Can you imagine? Even so, my baby boy always remained in good spirits! 

On Sunday, September 3rd 2017, I noticed Austin was having a more difficult time breathing. Austin was using an increased effort to sustain his breaths and thus I brought him in to the ER at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. He was very distraught and breathing was becoming more and more difficult for this little guy. They quickly put him on Oxygen, started an IV and were waiting on lab results. 

Shortly after, the ER physician came in and said he was too sick to go home and they were going to admit him to the PICU- Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Despite their best efforts, things quickly spiraled downhill and his condition worsened. He was transferred to the PICU and placed on a different form of Oxygenation- as his 0xygen saturation level (supposed to be greater than 95) was teetering in the high 70's- low 80's. He was not producing enough quality Oxygen to remain safe. 

At this point his was in respiratory failure and the best option was to intubate (place a tube down his airway and connect it to a machine that can ultimately breathe for him). The doctors stated that his body had been working so long trying to compensate for the decrease in Oxygen, that it was only a matter of time before his system shut down all together and thus the idea was to put him on the ventilator (breathing machine) while he was stable, rather than wait for him to crash (stop breathing) and then try to intubate (place the tube down his threat). So, we did.

Though nerve-wracking and very emotional, Austin tolerated the procedure well and his body was finally able to rest- so I thought. Shortly after being connected to the ventilator (machine breathing for Austin) his breathing completely stopped! He was immediately bagged (breaths were provided through an alternate means), alarms were going off and so many people were in the room: the physician and surplus of nurses, respiratory therapists and other personnel were working diligently to get to the bottom of what caused him to stop breathing. It is now believed that Austin had thick mucus secretions of which clogged his breathing tube and wasn't allowing air to pass. Needless to say, the phenomenal team of healthcare professionals at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital were able to remove the plug and get him breathing again with the ventilator. 

At at this point it was decided it would be best to place a central line and an arterial line (different types of catheters that go into major veins/arteries and can be used to provide long term- more potent medications), as Austin would be remaining in the hospital for quite some time and in the event that another emergency would happen, these would make for easy and efficient access for medications, as well as for continuous labs to be drawn from. 

Meanwhile- his brother, sisters and cousin drew some artwork to decorate his room and I placed some photos of the Austin I knew, by the bedside.

During this difficult time with Austin, I tried to make light of the situation the best I knew how and even came up with a meme (of my twins) during Hurricane Irma, that was plaguing us here in Florida as well... 

But at at the end of the day, reality was...

My baby girl (Austin's twin) was missing her mommy:

I wanted to restore some sense of normalcy for my children:

And baby boy was clinging to dear life:

Over the past 15 days we have been in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) so much has happened! Lines have been placed, lines have been removed. Monitors have been hooked up and monitors have been disconnected. I have met with Physicians, Specialists, Nurse Practioners, Nurses, Respiratory Therapists, Dietitians, Physician Assistants, Administrative staff, Counselors, etc.

Austin has been on multiple medications including paralytics, sedatives, pain medications and diuretics (medications to remove excess fluid), amongst others. He has endured several serious procedures and being the strong-willed trooper he is- he has pulled through- with the final diagnosis of:

Bacterial Pneumonia
-Heamophilus Influenzae type b

I have laughed, cried, screamed (to myself of course), grieved, been angry, felt helpless- yet, not hopeless... 

And between all of the medical jargon, visiting my other children daily, keeping everyone (family, friends and community) involved and informed, keeping myself and my household running...

I have grown weary and exhausted. Yet, I shall remain by the side of Austin, who needs his mama, as long as I can. 

Austin is nowhere near out of the woods and in order for me to continue to be able to be there for Austin-  WE NEED YOUR HELP! 

Austin became ill, right at the time I that I was supposed to be working more and saving up! I have now missed 2 weeks of work (while caring for him in the hospital) and have taken a MAJOR financial hit for this! Unfortunately, over the two weeks I have been out, Austin's condition has not improved drastically and has been a rollercoaster of progression and setbacks. I do not feel comfortable, safe, nor at this time-best, to go back to work and leave him here... alone- without his mommy...

BUT I am at a crossroads where I can not financially afford to be out any longer... and thus I am reaching out to any and every one to please help keep us (Austin and I) fighting the good fight of life TOGETHER! 

Please, if you can find it in your heart to donate to Austin's ensured recovery- and allow him the opportunity to recover with his mother continuing to advocate for his every move- both Austin and I would be forever more grateful! A contribution- no matter how small, allows even just a few more moments of our togetherness! $5. $10. $20... no matter the contribution- I would be so very appreciative! The money will be spent to ensure that I am able to pay overdue/current bills and thus can remain by Austin's side in the hospital and can delay having to leave him and go back to work right away! 

PLEASE, please, please... SHARE this post and help spread the word about Austin's case and help play a part of the miraculous recovery that is coming! God bless you all and please continue to keep us in your thoughts, prayers and positive vibes! No good deed goes unnoticed! 


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Saundra Smyrski 
St. Petersburg, FL
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