Sometimes it’s what you don’t know – and what you can’t control – that’s most difficult; particularly when it involves your own child.
Anna Soltesz of McDonald experienced that situation one day in July 2014, a day she calls her 3-year-old son Evan’s “1 big scare.”
“He just wasn’t being himself; you could tell he seemed off,” she said.
She and her husband Joe monitored his symptoms, which included fatigue, sluggishness and lack of appetite. After several hours, it worsened into labored breathing and retractions (sucking in of the skin around the ribs and sternum), so they took him to the Beeghly campus ER.
Doctors there measured Evan with a pulse oximetry level of 88 percent, concerningly below the normal range of 95-100, and immediately started him on an oxygen treatment. When he didn’t respond quickly enough to that, they ordered an emergency helicopter flight to Akron.
“When that happened, I don’t know how I managed to keep it together,” his mother said. “Evan was scared, and we were scared, but we tried to keep calm and tell him it was going to be OK.”
Weight restrictions on the helicopter meant only one parent could accompany Evan on the ride.
“We let him choose and he chose dad, which made me cry a bit, but whatever made him comfortable I was going to be OK with,” Anna said.
Anna says Evan, now 6, doesn’t remember much about the trip, but ever since he was little Evan loved the moon. He would always call it “his moon” and we’d call it “Evan’s moon.”
“Well that night he got to fly and see his moon really, really big out the window. That’s his biggest memory of it,” she said.
While Evan and his father were in-flight to Akron, Anna shouldered the worry.
“I can tell you that was the scariest time of my life because I couldn’t communicate with my husband,” she said. “It could have been really tragic that night, and I had no way to know what was going on.”
She ran home and gathered some essentials knowing they’d need to stay in Akron. She also had to quickly make arrangements with family to watch Evan’s twin brother, Ethan.
“That was rough, being away from our other child and the twins being away from each other.”
That one-hour drive from Youngstown to Akron was one of the longest of her life, she said.
“The thoughts that go through your mind; it was rough.”
Evan spent 24 hours in the pediatric intensive care unit before his breathing was stabilized, and 5 days total in the hospital. He went home with an asthma diagnosis, which he continues to manage today with an inhaler and various medications, as well as twice-per-year visits to an Akron Children’s pulmonologist in Warren, just a few miles from his home.
The family credits Akron Children’s asthma education specialists for the information they were provided before they left the hospital. Both mom and dad also suffer from asthma, and learning about triggers and other helpful tips has proven invaluable.
Evan and his brother play soccer, and love to run and ride their bikes. Evan, his parents say, has learned to recognize his limits and manage his own symptoms when he gets short of breath.
“Ever since we had his one big scare we immediately go on high alert as soon as he has a sniffle, because we don’t ever want to go through that again,” Anna said. “He can go from having a simple cold to a couple days later being in complete respiratory distress.”
Evan, who wants to be a firefighter someday like his dad, still plays with the toy helicopter Akron Children’s medics gave him after his Air Bear ride. While Evan gets great joy from it, his parents can’t help but be reminded of the most harrowing experience of their lives.