The sick days

He’s all right now, he really is. Let’s just start the story by reiterating that. And, to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of time when he really wasn’t. There definitely was that time, which is why we went to hospital in the first place, because I’ve heard all the stories about asthma being a life-threatening condition, about how it can go from okay to seriously not-okay in a matter of minutes, because my friend Amber once had a near-death experience because people didn’t take it seriously enough when she had an asthma attack. So this is how the story starts: I was in hospital with my six year old for two days last week.

Nathan in hospital

It started on Thursday. He was off school because he had a cold and it had triggered his asthma, and he spent the morning quietly on the couch playing computer games, which is his idea of Heaven even when he’s well. By the afternoon though he was pale as death with circles like bruises under his eyes and struggling for breath after a short and slow-paced walk so, to cut a long story short, I ended up in a cubicle in the Emergency department resting my feet up on the trolley while I held my nearly-sleeping boy on my lap in a plastic chair while he cried and pulled at his oxygen mask and said he wanted to go home.

By half past two on the Friday morning they’d found a bed for him upstairs in the Paediatric ward in a little room all of his own, with a fold-out bed next to it made up for me. His oxygen levels were still low, but he was s soundly asleep by that time that they taped a tube next to his nose without him ripping it off, and pumped him high with Ventolin every hour.

The next morning he was awake and hyped on Ventolin and steroids and still taped to an oxygen monitor, and stuck in his room climbing the walls while doctors and nurses grimaced and aahhhed about his pallor and his pulse and how much air was properly getting into him. We stayed.

It’s a strange feeling, like I was tethered to that room too. The hospital is in the middle of the city, and I went out and bought him a Lego set to keep him amused, and later on I went to the cafeteria to buy lunch, and then dinner. I was only a ten minute drive from home but home felt a lifetime away. I felt a lifetime away, and when I messaged family or friends on Facebook it felt like I was doing it from the other side of the world. The child was hardly at death’s door by that stage, and mostly occupied with toys and books and games, but the idea of sitting in the cafe across the street for half an hour felt alien and awful, like some kind of betrayal that I just couldn’t bring myself to entertain.

By the end of the stay there, some thirty six hours since we’d come, the white room felt like a prison. The blinds only moved up so far, so to see out the window we needed to stand high on the fold-out bed. I clung to that blue sky like I’d never be allowed to wander under it again and wondered how, after two days of doing nothing but looking after and playing with my boy, I could still feel so unutterably tired.

I was glad to learn the things I did about asthma and how best to manage it the next time. I was glad for the cafeteria, and for Facebook connectivity. I felt guilty, because the very mention of the words “hospital” and “child” bring out the worst fears in people, and I wasn’t the mum whose child was dying. I was the mum playing Lego. It made me think of my friend Amanda, whose gorgeous daughter has had so many hospitalisations before and after her liver transplant, and of Anna Delauney (whose blog you really ought to read) who spends so much time in hospital with a child who is very sick. I felt grateful to be in a country where hospitalisation is free and medical care is easily accessible.

And now I just feel tired, because even though I stopped for three days, the rest of life didn’t.

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15 thoughts on “The sick days

  1. Megan, totally know this feeling. My daughter has asthma and we’ve had plenty of those middle-of-the-night croup/ER runs. And then the steroids/Ventilin and the hyperness…yes. Glad he’s doing better now. Those are the times when mommas have to just give their children back to God and trust Him to take better care of them than even YOU can. Hope you both get caught up on sleep.

  2. Thanks Heather. This was our first time with asthma – had a few with croup with my daughter when she was little. It’s a funny feeling, as I said to a friend yesterday I wasn’t able even to pray. Trust is all you can do in those times.
    Hope your daughter’s asthma hospital trips come to an end soon too. They’re not experiences I’d wish to repeat.

  3. Oh, Megan! I’m so glad your son is ok! And that you both escaped that little prison of a hospital room fairly fast. Asthma is terrifying. My brother almost died of an attack when he was a teenager. He and my folks were driving through Boston on their way home to NY and had to flag down a jogger and ask where the nearest hospital was. This was long before cell phones and GPSs. I don’t often allow myself that memory.

    But you are a Supermom and got your son to the hospital when he needed to be there (not to mention the requisite Legos…). He is lucky to have you (and vice versa, of course)! Take carw and be well — and thank you for the shout-out! xo Anna

    • Oh Anna, that’s awful! That must have been so scary. I can understand why you choose not to remember it much.
      Supermum? Thank you. Don’t feel much like it most days. But I am very, very blessed by my family – crazy times and all.

  4. Thanks for the updates, Megan. We’ve been with you. We’ve also been there.

    When Benny was two we were at a camp and the heavens opened. He spent the Wednesday barefoot walking in mud. Then came the snotty cold, and on Thursday he went to hospital with scary low oxygen readings. Annette spent two nights in a country hospital with him, then drove the other boys home, and I spent the next two nights there.

    Three years later, some of his favourite memories are watching Babe in his hospital bed with me, catching a taxi to the railway station and a hire care home from Sydney, and eating cheese and crackers as he did on the train journey.

    Glad he’s better. Sleep well.

    • Thanks Francis. It’s funny, but Nathan – even in hospital – was talking about what an awesome time he had. Lollies, chocolates, Lego, presents, ham sandwiches for dinner, I think they’ll be some of his best memories for years to come too!

  5. So glad he’s OK now Megan. I had no idea…maybe there is some (but only some) merit to facebook. I can imagine it was most definitely a life line for you in that situation.

    I recently watch, and tried to help a little, when my sister had a similar situation. Her little boy had his tonsils out, anninoids scrapped and gromits in (forgive my spelling you know I’m terrible). So was in for 2 days, but then had to go back 2 weeks later for a period of 5 1/2 days when he had continued to bleed after surgery. Not nice to be chained to that room. Wish I had of know n so I could come give you a toilet break, familiar face and maybe a laugh, not to mention a lego building partner.

    Hopefully this will all become a fond family memory that he looks back on in years to come and say “wasn’t that fun mum you and I, just the two of us together playing lego”. a quality time moment in his life.
    take care

    • Thanks Paula! Yeah, it’s not nice. Five and a half days is crazy though…ouch.
      And YES, like you say, it’s already become a fond family memory. Because he’s a middle child, and because he’s so often either playing with one of the other two or amusing himself, it’s easy to not get that quality relational time. That was priceless, and because we had that our relationship has deepened, and we’ve decided to book in regular “Mummy and Me” time for him too, to keep it happening.
      I remember praying in Emergency Dept, and thinking “what is this all about God?” and now I think that’s the answer.

    • Thanks Erin!
      Hope your 6yo recovers soon. It’s so hard when kids are ill. Yes, it strengthens us, and sometimes even teaches us lessons we needed to know, but…it’s never easy. Have a good day.

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