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.