We were visiting my dad and step-mom in the remote farmland of Pennsylvania this weekend. We had a full day of swimming and picnicking, and Sunboy was challenging everyone to races around a grand old tree and back while we cheered. That night, Sunboy slept between us, with Flowergirl in a crib at the foot of the bed.
In the middle of the night, Sunboy started making strange breathing sounds. I flipped him squarely onto his back – which seemed to help – and dozed again. Soon, we both noticed that he was still making odd noises and reached over to him, both noticing that he was struggling to breathe and was hot with fever. “Where’s his inhaler?”, I asked. “Downstairs,” my husband answered, as he whisked him down the hall. I followed. We both were shocked at how much his chest was indrawing with each breath. He couldn’t speak, was a dark color, and we realized he was getting little air. In a second we grabbed my stepmom (who knows the back country roads well), told my dad that he was watching Flowergirl, and we sped away towards the nearest hospital, 20 minutes away.
In our haste, none of us had our omnipresent phones, I wasn’t wearing a bra, my husband Orchid wasn’t wearing shoes and my stepmom didn’t have her glasses. Orchid drove while stepmom navigated. I sat in the back with Sunboy where I gave him albuterol inhaler, sang lullabies to him to keep him calm and prayed. We broke every speed limit and almost hoped we would get pulled over, which would secure a police escort. It was the longest car ride in my life.
The albuerol started to help to the point where he could occasionally whisper a barely-audible word to me, but mostly he bathed in the songs and prayers. It’s amazing how much it helped him, and I ran through the scene in the film Signs where the asthmatic boy was helped through a severe attack because of the calming words of his father.
We made it to the hospital in less than the expected 20 minutes. We ran in and left my stepmom – who we did not realize couldn’t see – to park the car.
In the ER, they nebulized him twice and gave him intravenous steroids. His symptoms miraculously ameliorated. After tests, Sunboy was determined to have croup exacerbated by his severe asthma.
Although we had no choice, I had reservations about the hospital, which was my home town’s hospital. They were wonderful. A nurse in the twelfth hour of her shift cared for us and brought all four of us warmed blankets while we waited for Sunboy’s symptoms to subside. She was an angel we wont forget.
We left Pennsylvania early to get back to our home, our home hospital and our asthma specialists. He’ll continue with medications, and we were warned of the possibility of another rough night. We hope for an improvement over last night.
Today, we reflected on whether we could improve on the efficacy of our response (probably not by much).
Today, we recognized how quickly things can turn – on the head of a pin – to an emergency requiring quick decisions.
We realized that there’s no way to prepare for every contingency or circumstance. The best anyone can do is to hope to think quickly and well.
Most importantly, we were reminded of what is truly important: not shoes, not glasses or a bra. It’s each other. It’s our children. It’s family.
May you all hold yours closer today.