Monday 19 August 2013


He already has a virus. Croup we suspect. So we're watching him. Listening to breaths and looking at snot. The job of a parent is immensely glamourous. Under the weather and under the covers. We spend the day snuggled on the couch watching Barney on endless repeat. Sick baby days were easier when I still had control over the remote. We're big and little and short and tall. Some are in the middle some are very small. Are you big or little Mac? I ask him. Big Mac. He responds with pride.

And then his breath changes. We don't know if this is a serious development or not. Sometimes I worry that in this two mom family we jump to the worst possibilities first. But we head to CHEO (The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario) anyway.

And so begins one of the scariest days of my parenting experience thus far. One nurse listens to his breath and calls a second nurse. There seems to be a correlation between how many medical professionals enter the room and how bad the situation is. One nurse, two nurse, red nurse, blue nurse. They talk to each other but not to us. A now quite lethargic Mac is slumped over my shoulder whining but I try to hear what they are saying over his mumbles.

Dual symptoms.
I don't hear air on the left side. 

The worst part about ER visits is the wait. Hours in a room with coughing, sneezy, and oozing kids and their tired and stressed out parents. One hour, two hours, seven hours. You should bring a charger for your iPhone. You are going to be there a while. But this time is different. We skip the wait and head directly to an isolation room. Turns out that the wait is not the worst part.

"Does the nurse think this is serious or does she just have bitchy resting face?" Tracy whispers to me. I'm not sure either.

In our private room Mac is clingy and unhappy. They show us how to administer Ventolin which means that one of us holds him down while the other tortures him. He holds us equally responsible.  Then prednisone. And more Ventolin. We need to do it every 20 minutes, and then every hour, and then every 2 hours.

No more puffs. No nice. Mac whimpers on repeat. 

The probable diagnosis is asthma but he's too little for the official test. The doctor is nice and reassuring. He asks if there is a family history of asthma and Tracy begins to tell him that she had a puffer as a child too. I give her a quizzical look and realize that she has forgotten her lack of a biological connection to our child. We all laugh. I forget sometimes too.

He needs to make it to two hours without needing Ventolin to be allowed to go home. As much as we want him to be better we both admit that we'd prefer the security of the hospital. But as we wait we talk about the parents we know that do this wait-and-see dance far too regularly. Children with special needs and serious illnesses who have spent more time in hospital rooms than any one person should. It becomes easier to put our day in perspective.

Eventually it is discharge time and we are uneasy. Tracy asks the kind doctor questions about risks and time frames. With each question the fear in her voice increases. The doctor can see her face flush red and he finds the words she needs to hear.  He turns to her and says that in the last 15 years not a single person under the age of 18 has died from asthma for not getting to hospital fast enough. Tears stream down her face with relief and she thanks him profusely.

At home we continue with the Ventolin and the prednisone. I stay awake and listen to him breath. In and out in and out in and out. Two days pass and the scary part is over. Tracy is calm and begins to return to normal. But, as is my way, I've deferred the anxiety. I did the same thing when I was 22 weeks pregnant and we nearly lost our boy. I was eerily calm through the ordeal as my wife panicked enough for both of us. Mama instincts took over. I kept calm for him. But anxiety deferred is not erased. It comes eventually.

The second day comes to an end and I'm a wreck. I call my mom and ask if she can come. She doesn't ask why. She and my dad are here 16 hours later. And we are all breathing better.

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