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Holiday season medical emergency gives family extra reason to celebrate

Wessington Springs, (SD) – The beginning of the 2022 holiday season brought an experience the Schelske family did not have on their Christmas list. Thanks to a caring rural South Dakota community and local, quality, accessible health care, they ended up receiving a wonderful gift – their child’s health.

The Schelske’s typically smiling, happy-go-lucky daughter Henley had suffered from a running nose through the cold months of late fall, especially when she was teething. Her sunny disposition hadn’t changed, and she wasn’t running a fever, even with her sinus issues.

Her mom, Marissa, is a dental hygienist with Jerauld County Dental Clinic in Wessington Springs, decided she should get her checked out. Her daycare provider noticed she was coughing a lot after her nap. One of her patients canceled their appointment, so instead of driving 50 miles to Mitchell to her pediatrician, she took her little girl to see Dr. Terry Weaver at the Jerauld County Community Health Center. It was a good thing she did.

“I was thinking she had a sinus infection,” Marissa said.

After examining Henley Dr. Weaver was concerned with her breathing.

The RSV test they ran on Henley came back positive. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It takes most people a week or two to feel better, but RSV can seriously affect young children and the elderly. Henley’s case turned out to be more serious than typical RSV.

Her positive RSV diagnosis launched the family into a regimen of testing and procedures that included nebulizer treatments and a chest X-Ray. Jerauld Co. CHC is conveniently located next to Avera Weskota Memorial Hospital.

“Annie, the nurse, did a wonderful job with the nebulizer treatment,” Marissa said. “Since Henley is so little and had never had a nebulizer treatment done, she was less than cooperative so it was more difficult to complete.”

Another nebulizer treatment was completed before they left the office that evening. Henley had a chest X-ray which showed she had pneumonia in her lungs as well.

“Dr. Weaver pulled me aside and said, ‘I don’t think you realize how serious this is. It could go bad fast,’” Marissa said. “I got really worried then.”

Dr Weaver wanted to see Henley at 7:30am the next morning. When they returned to the health center, her oxygen levels had dropped to the 80s. Normal levels are above 95.  He wanted Henley admitted to the hospital for observation in case her condition worsened, Marissa said. If it did, he was prepared to fly her to Sioux Falls for further treatment. They live on a farm 20 minutes from Wessington Springs. If she quit breathing it would take that much longer to get her to a hospital if they went home.

The family got lucky and Henley’s oxygen levels increased to the point where Dr. Weaver was satisfied with her progress and let her recover in Wessington Springs.

“I was very thankful for Dr Weaver and his team for the compassion that they showed for my daughter,” Marissa said. “I appreciate everything that they did for us and am glad that Henley received the utmost care possible in our small community clinic.”

The experience she and Henley had with her local health center reaffirmed her love of the small community that rallied around her family to support them while Henley went through the holiday health emergency.

“Having a clinic in our small town is amazing, especially the doctors we have,” she said. “Rural health care is very important. It’s hard for patients to get to those bigger cities or the larger clinics fast if they are having a medical emergency. Especially with Horizon we take low-income patients. We have so many patients that wouldn’t receive dental care if they didn’t come to our clinic.”