RSV Real Talk: Why I’m ALL In For All Infant Protection Against RSV

By Kristine Santella, Learning and Development Manager, Commercial Training

June 2, 2023

From the moment my daughter, Emilia, was born, I felt an overwhelming love for her and a need to protect her. As a new mom, I wanted to do everything right – I spent a lot of time researching the best ways to feed her, manage her naps, and help her hit her milestones. When Emilia was about eight months old, my husband and I both returned to the office, and she started daycare.

Like all kids in daycare, Emilia came home sick almost every week. Our house was a revolving door of minor colds and stomach bugs. But she was able to bounce back from these minor illnesses at home. So, when Emilia had a cough and fever on a Friday, at 9 months old, I wasn’t worried. What I didn’t realize was that what would start as a minor illness would rapidly progress to a terrifying experience that would impact our family for years to come.

The day after Emilia had initial cold symptoms, she started to get a little worse. I still wasn’t worried, though – everything was manageable at home. But by 3am on Sunday, she was clearly in respiratory distress. Her belly was distending, and her nostrils were flaring with every breath. We immediately rushed her to the pediatric emergency room.

It was scary to see Emilia struggling to breathe on the way to the hospital, but at the time, I calmed myself by thinking, ‘Everything is going to be ok. They will treat her in the ER, and we will be home in a few hours.’ The doctors in the ER did treat Emilia, but instead of sending her home, they indicated that they wanted to keep her one additional night for observation. Knowing that I was clueless regarding what to look for, this was a relief.

One night in the Pediatric Unit stretched into two, as Emilia continued to worsen. By Tuesday morning, my previously healthy baby was hooked up to high-flow oxygen, a feeding tube, an IV, and various machines to monitor her condition. My confidence that everything would be ok started to wane, but I tried to stay positive. That day, a respiratory therapist came into the room to start a series of breathing treatments on Emilia. A few minutes after starting the first treatment, he stopped the machine and excused himself from the room. I remember feeling a pit in my stomach, knowing that couldn’t be good news. He returned a few minutes later with the doctor, who informed us that Emilia needed additional care, and that she needed to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. Hearing that Emilia needed to be admitted to the ICU destroyed any remaining confidence I had that everything would be fine. I felt completely out of control – I remember thinking, ‘How did we get to this point in just a few days, and how much further can this go?’

After Emilia was admitted to the ICU, we got confirmation that she had bronchiolitis due to RSV. RSV is actually the leading cause of hospitalization for infants, and yet until this experience, I had never heard of it.1

There is no treatment for RSV.2 We just needed to provide her with supportive care, like oxygen, until she fought through the virus on her own. I felt helpless as I watched her labor to breathe, but the nurses in the ICU were kind enough to bring a rocking chair into our room so that I could hold her without disturbing her network of wires and tubes. Emilia spent the next five days in the ICU, and thankfully, she began to improve. We were able to slowly wean her off the oxygen and remove the feeding tube. On the day Emilia was finally discharged, I felt so much relief.

Emilia now, at age 4, happy and healthy

Emilia now, at age 4, happy and healthy

Emilia is four years old now, but our experience with RSV impacted us long after she had recovered. Going forward, it was hard to trust that a little cold really was just a little cold. When I think of all the research I did as a new mom to try to get it all right, understanding RSV was never part of it. It wasn’t on my radar until it had already turned our lives upside-down, and I certainly never would have realized that my happy and healthy little girl could be hospitalized for days because of it. I hope that in the future, no parent or child has to endure such a terrifying experience and it gives me hope to know that Sanofi is working to make sure that day comes soon.

The Santella family

The Santella family


  1. Leader S, Kohlhase K. Recent trends in severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among US infants, 1997 to 2000. J Pediatr. 2003;143(5):127-132. doi:10.1067/s0022-3476(03)00510-9
  2. Preventing RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) | CDC. Accessed April 20, 2022.