Childhood Bronchiolitis Group

Brave kids with bronchiolitis. Top: Julie Ritchie, Abigail Pearson, Amelia Patterson, Chloe Crump, Indy Murdoch. Middle: Lena Boswell, Korie Gillard. Bottom: Maddison Smith, Kaiden Mihaere, James Patterson, Sakura and Mila Montgomery, Alex Baskett.

Melissa Patterson is a Kapiti resident who runs a nation-wide support group using social media to support parents and caregivers of little ones who suffer from bronchiolitis and other respiratory conditions. 

Melissa is the mother of James aged five-years-old, and Amelia aged two-years-old who both have bronchiolitis. 

Melissa has endured much heart ache in witnessing her son James be hospitalized 10 times before the age of two. 

These were extremely frightening experiences for the whole family, as James had intense laboured breathing and very low oxygen levels resulting in hospital stays of up to 4-5 days each time. 

These hospitalisations caused Melissa to suffer terrible anxiety. Although the medical staff were fantastic and should be praised for their interpersonal skills, these hospital visits were very uncomfortable, impersonal and distressing for the whole family.

Due to the frequency of James having bronchiolitis, Melissa and her husband Ian decided that the best course of action was to isolate James from social environments where he would be exposed to viruses, at least until his body was developed enough to cope with them, which was when he was closer to three-years-old.

This had a huge impact on Melissa in particular. Being a social person, it was very difficult on her to be so isolated.  Other than her family and close friends, there wasn’t any community support available.

After having to stay socially isolated at home for three years due to her sons’ condition, Melissa decided to help others in a similar situation by connecting them and providing the support that she would have benefited from greatly.

In May 2015, Melissa created a Facebook support page called 'Bronchiolitis & Child Respiratory Support Group NZ' for parents and caregivers of children who suffer from bronchiolitis, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), viral induced wheeze and other respiratory conditions.  

The purpose of the group is to be an easily accessible and immediate way of connecting people together in a safe and friendly forum where information, stories and tips such as surviving hospital stays can be shared, ultimately reducing the anxiety and isolation that comes with being a parent or caregiver of a child with respiratory conditions.

Support group member Sarah Toplis comments, 

As a member of the group it has been my privilege to see humanity at its best with people supporting each other when they most need it, sharing vital information that can ease a hospital stay or reduce feelings of being ostracised and helplessness.

There are multiple posts from members on a daily basis and many have said it’s the only place they can go to where they know that others will understand what they are going through.  Even people from overseas have requested to join the group as there appears to be no support groups of this kind anywhere else in the world.

If you would like to join the support group, search for ‘Bronchiolitis & Child Respiratory Support Group NZ’ on Facebook. 

If you or someone you know with a respiratory condition has a story to share, please email and you could be featured here too!

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