Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Struggle To Breathe...

It’s been a rough week since coming back from Nashville. I fought my own cold for a few days, then Bethany’s cold got worse and she spent a few days home with me last week. Erin started to get the sniffles and went for the follow-up visit with our family doctor to see how she was responding to her asthma medicine, then headed off to Winter Guide Camp for the weekend.

Bethany loved being an only child for almost 2 days! She kept grinning and looking around the house saying “I have Mommy and Daddy ALL to myself!” We even took her to a hockey game on Saturday night but had to leave in the middle of the second period when she started to fall asleep against us!

Erin came home from the weekend at winter camp with lots of wonderful memories and stories about tobogganing down “Death Hill”, but her cough was almost nonstop and taking her breath away. We went up to the clinic that night where the doctor on call suggested adding some bronchodilator to help her breathe better and reassured me that when anyone with asthma gets a head cold, it makes the breathing more difficult. We headed home hoping the new medicine would make breathing a bit easier.

Halfway through school on Monday, Erin had to come home. The teacher explained that she was coughing almost nonstop and seemed unable to catch her breath. She was right!! Erin could hardly move without setting off a round of chest-shaking, rattly coughs that left her winded and sore, so as soon as Nick got home to be with Bethany, we headed off to the Emergency Department after the “Tele-care” phone medical service advised us they would probably want to do a chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia or bronchitis.

It was one of those nights when the waiting room at Emergency was a veritable canvas of all that can go wrong in a growing city. We knew that she wouldn’t be as high a priority as breaks or cuts, but there seemed to be an endless supply of accidents, heart attacks and other emergencies coming into the trauma side. At times, over half an hour would go by without anyone new being called down to the non-acute side. I watched the faces of other parents as they waited with sick children, knowing that their expressions of helplessness mirrored my own. It was the most horrible sound hearing her cough so hard behind the mask they’d made her put on as soon as we arrived, knowing that I couldn’t take that pain away or make it any easier to breathe. I watched the resigned look on the faces of the adults, injured or elderly, as they waited for attention that might take hours and hours to receive. It made me angry to think how hard our current Prime Minister campaigned in the last election about improving Health Care and waiting times. How can such a rich country like ours have a health care system that is falling apart at the seams?

We read, we talked, we walked, I knit and wrote in my journal. Finally, almost 5 hours after arriving, we were taken down to one of the non-acute rooms where we waited to see the doctor. Once he examined her and listened to her lungs, he ordered an aerosol mix of medicine and oxygen administered by mask to help stop the coughing spasms and then told us we’d go for the chest X-ray after the medicine. I will never forget watching the panic look in Erin’s eyes as the misty mask closed over her nose and mouth switch to relief as she was suddenly able to take deep lungfulls of air without coughing for the first time in almost 24 hours.

The chest X-ray was clear and the doctor spent a few minutes with me explaining how to modify her medications until she gets through this cold. We arrived home shortly before midnight and I tucked her into bed, glad that she’d be able to sleep better than the night before.

She’s been home with me for 2 days now and slowly getting better as the cold virus works through her system and stops making the asthma worse. It does make me glad that I can rearrange me schedule to work around what she needs... or batch orders beside her as we work on the homework they sent home from school. This will be a learning curve for all of us and I doubt that I will ever take breathing for granted again.

But I have also learned that I would trade my drawing hand, my worldly goods, almost anything short of my soul to keep either of my children from suffering... I hate not being able to “make it better”!!