Topeka clinic helps youngest patients breath easier, avoid hospital stay

The Outpatient Bronchiolitis Clinic at Stormont Vail assists with newborn to 2-year-olds
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 10:37 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - What started as a little cold became a big deal for Claudia Richardson’s then three-month-old daughter Lillian.

“It was pretty scary,” Claudia said. “She was coughing and breathing funny. The more she would cough, the more she would gag, and then she wouldn’t want to eat and she wouldn’t want to sleep, so it was watching her slowly decline.”

Claudia and her husband tried helping her get out the mucus that was causing the congestion.

“I bought every suction (tool) that Target had,” Claudia said.

None of them worked. Then, their pediatrician referred them to Stormont Vail’s Outpatient Bronchiolitis Clinic. It’s a special clinic designed to keep the tiniest patients out of the hospital - especially as cold and flu season has facilities packed.

“The OBC was set up to provide suctioning so we can get that thick and sticky mucus out of their airways,” Stormont Vail Certified Respiratory Therapist Renee McCartney said.

McCartney says bronchiolitis causes thick, sticky mucus in the lungs. It’s a nuisance for most older kids and adults, but it can be tough on little ones.

“If a kiddo can’t breath through his or her nose, he has trouble latching on breastfeeding or feeding from a bottle, so they will tend to drink less and get dehydrated, and then that turns the mucus into basically cement because it’s so thick and sticky,” she said. “That become a vicious cycle and that kiddo will need to be admitted to the hospital for dehydration.”

The OBC has stronger tools and medicines than what parents can get at home, plus they see a trained respiratory therapist with support from the hospital’s pediatric nurses, offering experience in more ways than one.

“I think a lot of parents sort of feel out of their depth when it comes to their baby is sick and maybe struggling to breath, so the goal is to have a place to reassure those parents,” McCartney said.

Claudia says the clinic helped Lillian.

“She was instantly almost relieved,” she said.

It also helped two-year-old sister Payton when she caught it a few weeks later. It makes Claudia and her husband doubly grateful.

“We’ve lived in a lot of different places because we’re military and there’s never been anything like this that I’ve seen,” she said. “This resource saved us days of sitting in the hospital.”

The OBC opened in 2014, and had around 3,500 patient visits last year. They see kids newborn to two-years old.

A doctor’s referral is required.