FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – Just days after his first birthday, Thomas Brasil began to experience severe trouble breathing.
After being rushed to the emergency room at a hospital in Visalia, doctors recommended Thomas be transferred to Community Regional Medical Center’s Pediatric Intensive Care unit. It was there under specialized care that doctors figured out what was ailing Thomas and saved his life.
Thomas may look like a normal one and a half year old now, but just a few months ago, his parents had the scare of a lifetime after what they thought were just side effects of a previous infection.
“So he was retracting in his chest and just having a really hard time, so we went ahead and drove him to the local emergency room and once they realized how badly he was struggling, they took him straight back. A few hours went by and he was still struggling and he basically couldn’t get enough oxygen into his blood with what they could provide him. It was at that point that they kind of determined, okay we can’t help him here–we’re going to have to transfer somewhere else,” said Janelle Brasil, Thomas’ mother.
He was airlifted to the Pediatric Intensive Care unit at Community Regional Medical Center.
“So when we got transferred there, we were kind of in a place just desperate for help because our son was literally deteriorating before our eyes, he ended up having a few pretty severe episodes where his saturation levels started dropping, couldn’t get enough oxygen and his heart rate dropped and so I think it happened like 3 or 4 times and we were told those 3 or 4 times– you need to come in, things aren’t looking good,” said Janelle.
Thomas’s doctors determined he had bacterial and fungal pneumonia caused by aspergillus – a fungus that usually affects the respiratory system.
“He had acute respiratory failure, was on mechanical ventilation, was intubated during that time period and he was continually declining despite all the efforts from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit,” said Dr. John Moua the Medical Director for Pediatric Specialty Center at Community Regional Medical Center.
Not knowing Thomas’ fate, his parents were told to take it an hour at a time.
“There was a lot of discussion during that time period… and literally within 48 hours, he turned around very, very quickly,” Dr. Moua said.
“So that was sort of a reality check for us. Because that’s when we first realized, oh my gosh, this is really bad, this is really, really bad…then we got to a place where we told, okay we can take it a day at a time now. And then, you know, he finally got stabilized then extubated and we were on the road to recovery,“ Brasil said.
It was a long road to recovery as thomas spent almost a month at community regional where he had to get anti-fungal treatments and weekly blood draws, along with suffering the long-lasting effects to his body.
“He does have some lung damage as a result of his lung infection so he does do an airway clearance vest therapy– the thunder vest we call it — so he does that twice a day with inhaled meds to just kind of help prevent infection from settling back in,” said Brasil.
The “thunder vest” helps loosen any mucus that might be in thomas’ lungs, and is a welcome treatment in the Brasil home, as it means darker days are hopefully behind them.
“We didn’t know about the PICU until we had to go. I just think that people in the Valley should know that they are excellent — that they are top notch care in the Valley. I mean, we’ve seen doctors all over the place and I’m confident in the care that he’s receiving in Fresno with CRMC,” said Brasil.
Dr. Moua says decisions on how to provide the best care are best made as a group effort — meaning more than one specialist will often see the patients together. This multidisciplinary approach is what helped save Thomas’ life.
“When physicians talk, things can usually get done in a much more conservative way. So that’s one thing that a lot of families are very appreciative of–because we do talk and we communicate with their physicians as well other specialists,” Dr. Moua said.
Specialists from Community Regional are still researching exactly how Thomas contracted aspergillus. He continues to see Dr. Moua to make sure his lungs are staying healthy.
“He is a high-energy little boy, who is amazing. I will tell you, it’s been an honor and a pleasure taking care of Thomas and also just meeting his family,” said Dr. Moua
And although Thomas still has to meet routinely for check-ups, he’s overall a healthy and happy boy.
“It’s kind of surreal, looking back and remembering how sick he was. I’ll look back at pictures and it’s shocking–he doesn’t even look like the same little boy. But the doctors and the pulmonologists, the respiratory therapists, the nurses worked tirelessly to help him and you know…he’s here today — so that’s awesome.”