Jimmie and Alexis Allen recall their 6-week-old daughter's battle with RSV: 'She just stopped breathing'

Jimmie and Alexis Allen are sharing their family's RSV ordeal. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jimmie and Alexis Allen are sharing their family's RSV ordeal. (Photo: Getty Images)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child-rearing.

Jimmie Allen and his wife Alexis are making it their mission to prevent other parents from experiencing what they did.

Last November, the country music singer and songwriter, 37, suffered every parent's nightmare when the couple's 6-week-old daughter, Zara, stopped breathing after a coughing fit. Zara had recently been diagnosed with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), a contagious airborne virus that is surging throughout the U.S.

"She just stopped breathing and went limp in my arms," says Alexis, who was on Jimmie's tour bus at the time. "We had to pull over on the side of the road and get the ambulance to meet us about 40 minutes later. It was the scariest 40 minutes of my life. I feel like I blacked out that whole time. That was such a scary time, not knowing if she was gonna make it or not."

Jimmie raced to meet his wife and daughter at the hospital in Maryland, where the family stayed for seven days before moving to the hotel across the street from the hospital.

"They said we could have left at five, but we were like, 'ahhhhh we'll stay a little longer,'" recalls Jimmie.

These days, Zara is doing great. At 17 months old, she's walking on her own. The family refers to her as "Sunshine Baby," thanks to her non-stop smiling.

The Allens were in the hospital for a week last year as daughter Zara battled RSV. (Photo: Courtesy of the Allen family)
The Allens were in the hospital for a week last year as daughter Zara battled RSV. (Photo: Courtesy of the Allen family)

"It's like, you know how as an adult if you have a near-death experience, you cherish life? It's like she did," says her dad. "She got close to things, got a little shaky, and now she's smiling and stuff. "

Now, her parents want to share their story to help other families. The Allens have joined forces with Sanofi to serve as spokespeople for Knowing RSV, an initiative that provides parents with educational resources about RSV and empowers them through stories from impacted families.

"It was definitely a crazy experience. I had no idea what RSV was," Jimmie shares. "Never heard of it. I'm not from the medical field. Once we went through that, my biggest thing was helping people learn from our experience. That way, if they experience it, they're a lot more knowledgeable. That's how we get through things in life as humans. I thought it was important to share our story."

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

One important aspect of their role in raising awareness of RSV is teaching people how to prevent it. This is particularly important during the holidays when many are gathering in large groups.

"This year is even bigger than it's ever been. We didn't realize that it was the leading hospitalization for babies under 1, which is crazy. And for us to deal with it that early, I can only imagine what other parents are going through and not speaking out about it," says Alexis. "So we just wanted to share our story so that other people could have awareness and really get the help that they need."

The couple recommends thinking strategically when it comes to socializing this holiday season.

"Especially with the holidays, just minimize contact if you need to, or if you can, just try to stick to yourself and your smaller families," Alexis advises. "But mainly if you do see that your kid is sick, I feel like just trusting your instinct and going with your gut feeling. Reach out to your doctors or your healthcare providers."

"You know your kid. If things still aren't right, then go talk to another doctor. Talk to as many as you can until you get the answers that you feel you need," adds Jimmie.

Luckily, the family is able to be back home in Tennessee for a break from Jimmie's tour with Carrie Underwood, which will pick back up in February. But he won't stay quiet for too long: He'll ring in the New Year on CBS by co-hosting New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash with Elle King and Rachel Smith.

Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.