Jax Nelson from Summit, South Dakota

Mom shares PICU story

March 29, 2021

Written by Kelsey Nelson, mom of Sanford Children’s patient Jax from Summit, South Dakota

“Is my baby going to die?”

This fear flashed through my mind as I watched my infant son, Jax, struggle for his life in the pediatric intensive care unit at Sanford Children’s Hospital.

I couldn’t think of anything else. Just my child and how to get him better.

A couple months earlier, Jax was a perfectly healthy little boy. When Jax was a few months old, he came down with a nasty cough. His breathing was really labored, and we sped from our home in Summit, South Dakota, to our pediatrician in Watertown.

At the clinic, Jax stopped breathing. He was rushed to the local emergency room where he was stabilized and diagnosed with RSV. I knew then we needed to get him to the specialists at Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls.

On the way, we almost lost Jax in the ambulance. When we arrived, he was immediately admitted into the PICU and treated for two collapsed lungs. He needed a ventilator to breathe for seven days.

After 10 days in the hospital, we got to return home. But just a month later, Jax got really sick again. He was tested for cancer and other illnesses, but no one could determine what was wrong with him.

We again turned to Sanford Children’s Hospital. The first night in the hospital, I couldn’t shake thoughts that Jax wouldn’t make it. I waited until my husband and mom left the room before gaining courage to ask the doctors and nurses if he was going to die.

His team responded that they were doing everything they could. I remember asking one of his doctors, “What do you think is wrong with my baby?” She replied, “It’s my mission to figure that out.”

The team at Sanford Children’s delivered on that promise. Jax was diagnosed with a bowel obstruction and received the care he needed to get better. They did everything they could to care for my baby. And today, I have a wild and wonderful 3-year-old because of them.

I’m so proud to share our family’s story during the Watertown Radiothon presented by Croplan by Winfield United on April 14-15.

I remember listening to the Watertown Radiothon for the first time when I was just 12 years old. I called in a $10 donation and have listened every year since. But hearing the stories of kids with cancer or lifelong diseases, I never imagined my own son would require the same lifesaving care.

Throughout our experience, Sanford Children’s supporters were by our sides making sure Jax got the best care, my husband and I got a bite to eat through meal vouchers, and Child Life was there to give us the support our family needed.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and kids like Jax face increased risks for COVID and other infectious illness. They need your support now more than ever.


How to get involved

  • Make a gift. 100% of every dollar supports equipment and technology, assists families with costs not covered by insurance, makes programs like Child Life possible and so much more.
  • Tune in. Hear stories about family’s like ours during the Watertown Radiothon for Kids presented by Croplan by Winfield United on April 14-15.