Our baby boy Asher Gangadharan Krop was born on August 28th, 2015 beautiful and healthy. As we settled in for the night I remember being so happy and looking forward to the girls meeting their brother the next day. As Asher grew up, our love for him grew too. Elliot and I felt a special connection with Asher and he made our family feel complete. Adia, our oldest, was a second mom to him, holding him and watching him when I needed to go to another room. Ayla, the middle sister, was his playmate and competitor for attention. She loved hugging and manhandling him.
On December 10, 2016, when Asher was 15 months old, he had a fever. I was out of town and the kids were home with Elliot. We thought it was a cold and he would be better in a few days. The next morning, Asher still had a fever and when speaking to Elliot over the phone I could hear Asher’s breathing. I asked Elliot to count his breaths and his breaths were 80 per minute, which was way too high. Elliot rushed Asher to the children’s hospital, and soon after arrival the doctors made the decision to intubate as Asher’s oxygen saturation was too low. Upon hearing this, I booked the first flight back to Atlanta the next day as I was out of town visiting my father in the hospital. Asher was diagnosed with pneumonia due to human metapneumovirus (HMPV). HMPV can cause upper and lower respiratory disease in people of all ages, and is in the same virus family as the more widely known RSV (respiratory syncytial virus.)
Over the course of the next few days in the hospital, Asher’s health went up and down all the while I was reassured that Asher would be okay since he was a healthy boy with no known pre-existing conditions. I accepted the reality that Asher was very sick but that in some time this would all be over and he would come home.
On Thursday December 15th, it was my turn to stay home with our daughters for the night. I got a call from Elliot around 4am telling me to come to the hospital now. Asher’s oxygen levels had desaturated to the mid 70s and nothing they were trying was working. They said the only option was extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. ECMO is an advanced life support technique used for patients with life-threatening heart and/or lung problems. Asher survived the surgery to hook him up to the ECMO machine and his oxygen saturation levels were much better and his vitals stabilized. Even though Asher’s surgery went well we were petrified. When on ECMO there is a chance of blood clots, therefore Asher had to be on blood thinners, which increased his chances for internal bleeding. It was a constant balance between clotting and bleeding and the exact balance had to be maintained or Asher’s life would be in danger. Again, we were reassured that Asher would be ok and his lungs just needed to rest.
Early in the morning on December 18th, Asher went into cardiac arrest and CPR was performed. The staff stabilized Asher, but now they looked scared. At that point the doctors were all unsure of the reason for the change in Asher’s condition. A few hours later, Asher went into cardiac arrest again. I remember slowly standing up, staring as people started running into his room. Many people started working on Asher and a doctor led me to a chair just outside of his room. I called Elliot and told him to come immediately. A doctor and nurse sat with me while I cried, heaved, and hyperventilated. I watched as people switched off performing CPR on Asher. At one point the doctor came out of the room and told me he didn’t know what was wrong, but that Asher was dying and he had two more things to try before stopping. I screamed NO and cried and moaned, then a few minutes later everyone stopped.
Our grief journey has been difficult, as you would imagine. Talking about Asher and our grief, attending support groups such as the ones offered by Rachel’s Gift, meeting other parents who have lost a child, and having friends who can listen have helped our family. We keep Asher’s memory alive by including him in part of our everyday conversations, lighting a candle for him on every 18th, singing songs we used to sing to him, and telling his baby sister all about him.
To continue Asher’s legacy, we have created the Asher Krop Memorial Fund in support of research for better treatments and a vaccine for HMPV as currently there is no specific antiviral therapy or vaccine. Before catching this virus, Asher was a healthy 15-month-old baby. He fell ill and died in one week’s time. It is very important to our family to get as many answers as possible to understand this tragedy that unfortunately affects many healthy children.
To show your support, visit Asher Krop Memorial Fund