Category: Life Changes

One Breath Away

As mothers, we know our kids better than they know themselves! I had posted on an earlier post a few years ago that I was getting the kids’ asthma under control and I was really trying. Well I made the fatal mistake of thinking that my sons’ preventative inhaler, Flovent, was no longer a critical step in this equation so I eliminated it. As my sons got common viral colds, I would give them their Albuterol inhaler to try to catch the cold in the beginning.

On a Georgia hot day in May my 8-year-old wasn’t feeling too well. He had developed this cough that began to sound croupy, you know, like the croup cough. Even though all the commercials I have ever seen for croup and all the stories I have heard about croup involved babies and young kids at least up to the age of 3 or 4 years old still the doctors at Urgent Cares and hospitals continued to diagnose my son with that I guess because he has had it before when he was younger. He would have that croupy cough and then once exacerbated that would turn into that seal-like breathing. Just horrible to hear! So you can imagine the frequent ER trips made. I would always panic and get scared because I could never tell when the breathing was in the bronchial tubes or in the lungs until maybe I looked to see if ribs were retracting. Anyway on this particular day I had his dad take him to Urgent Care while I went to work. After all, every symptom this kid had mimicked the croup cough he had been diagnosed with before…we just wanted to be sure. Dad took him and the Urgent Care nurses not only wouldn’t give him a breathing treatment for good measure but they did nothing whatsoever except go by dad’s words of it being the croup cough.

Being me and the momma bear protecting her cub, I was curious to know why the refusal to give my kid at least a breathing treatment…because what’s the worst that can come of that except hyperactivity, right? I called the doctor. The doctor explained that my son’s oxygen level was already at 100% and his heart rate was already elevated from the inhaler treatment previously given hours before his visit there. She said she did not want to speed up his heart anymore. It was certainly a first for me, but I let the subject rest since I was at work and my kid was at home with dad. I went home to check on him directly after work that day and then decided to go back to work since his big sister was there to keep an eye out for him and he seemed relatively the same. I worked late that night, probably until about 8pm and I went straight home afterwords.

My daughter was in the kitchen finishing up with the dishes when I walked in the door and I immediately noticed that my 8-year-old was not in the room. I asked her where he was and she said that he went to sleep without dinner. Alarmed is an understatement at this point. That boy NEVER goes to bed without a meal, EVER. I hurry back to his room to check on him and his breathing sounds a bit off but I cannot tell if it is a concern yet because his cough was so harsh. I decided to give him a treatment with his Albuterol inhaler hoping that would help. All he wanted to do was sleep. All I remember was saying to him if he felt anything weird, different, strange, whatever to just come and get me even if I fell asleep. Well I kept checking on him throughout the night but had also went out to the car in the meantime to check the Urgent Care papers and saw that he had a low-grade fever during his visit earlier. What the hell? I was a little taken back because his dad had not mentioned that which meant the doctor did not mention that to him.

This kid is not the easiest kid to do the feel test on because his body is always a little on the warmer side to the touch. But the fever did not really sit well in my thoughts because with the croup cough he never had a fever in the past. Well time passed and I kept checking on him and although there was no real progress with his breathing he was not complaining about anything except being tired and having this horrible cough. Well a little past midnight I woke up to someone tapping on me and when I opened my eyes and focused clearly (mind you, without glasses) I saw it was my 8-year-old hovering over me. His breathing was horrible…I cannot even describe the fear that took over my body at that moment. I asked him what was wrong and he pointed to his back and whispered that he was hurting and couldn’t breath. My baby couldn’t even talk!! I jumped up and immediately started scrambling for clothes, shoes, glasses, purse while telling his dad we had to go.

Being from Maryland now living in Georgia I am not used to the ambulance system here. Actually I have never rode in an ambulance in my life…not even the two times that I went into labor lol I drove. And yep, God got me to the hospital probably in the same speed as the ambulance would have because the only hospital for children is about 20 minutes away in Atlanta and I promise you we got there in what felt like 10. I had never been so scared in my life. Scared that my baby’s lungs were going to collapse because something wasn’t right. Confusion was setting in too though because I couldn’t figure out what went wrong…but I knew something wasn’t right and this wasn’t just another panic ER visit. This felt like life or death by the way my baby sounded. He couldn’t even cough anymore, it was totally suppressed!

As soon as we pulled up to CHOA (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta) the valet helper took care of the car and I rushed my son into the ER. Although the waiting room seemed empty, I can never remember getting through to triage so quickly. From the front desk sign-in to the triage nurse to a wheelchair to a nurse walking us back to a room, everything happened in like 15-20 minutes tops. Several doctors, nurses and personnel came back to the first room we were in and then we were transferred to a “bigger” room after my son was hooked up to a few pieces of equipment. IVs were started with two different antibiotics because the doctors were almost certain that some type of infection may have been going on.

In this bigger room that’s when things became real scary…this room had a big machine in it, along with a monitoring window, a sink and some other stuff that I can’t even recall. It was just scary and intimidating with the big oxygen tank that was posted up in there beside the big machine. It did not resemble a room I had ever seen in all my times of visiting this very hospital. The doctor then explained to me that my son had to be put on a by-pap machine and that this mask was going to pump air into his body to try to get his air circulation better.

Trauma Room
Trauma Room

My son remained on this by-pap machine for what seemed like forever. I heard one of the nurses whisper our location on the phone to another hospital employee, “Trauma Room”. If it were not for my child needing my strength I would have freaked out then. Because she was so calm and everyone in the room were so calm while they were trying to get my son to maintain more relaxed breathing and waiting for that magical moment where his chest was no longer retracting heavily with the struggles of breathing I thought maybe I misheard the nurse on her phone. I stepped into the hallway to call his dad.

‘Trauma Room’ is what I saw posted outside the door as I turned around finishing up my phone call. My heart sank again. Although the events of that night are not as clear as the next four days after in my mind that is in part because by force I suppressed some of it right then in the moment in order to maintain my strength for my son after the doctors told me that they had to admit him to ICU. A series of blood work had been taken when we got to one of the first rooms in the ER and the results seemed like they were taking forever. On the walk to ICU my son’s IV was snatched out of his arm due to the door threshold being low and the IV rail being too high. It was horrible, blood was everywhere but luckily my son remained asleep.

When you transfer to ICU the nurses ask you to wait in the waiting room so that they can get your child settled in…should be no longer than 20 minutes tops. Well I fell asleep in the waiting room of ICU and when I woke up I was frantic that an hour had passed and no one had come to talk with me or get me. I rushed to the nurses station and no sooner as she tried to tell me that they would be with me in a few minutes did a doctor come through

ICU room
ICU room

the double doors to take me back to the room. As she walked me back she began explaining that the blood test revealed that my son had the flu. Influenza B in May? I was utterly confused!

My son’s room was straight ahead and I could see several doctors, nurses and help staff standing around his bed. All I remember is that my child looked bewildered and scared. When the doctors attempted to put the by-pap machine back on his face after getting him situated in the ICU bed he freaked out and wouldn’t let them. I am not sure why they did not come to get me immediately but only when I came into the room was I able to calm him down so they could but the mask on his face! That mask is horrible and would scare the hell out of anybody but especially a kid.

oxygen tank in ICU
oxygen tank in ICU

Our days and nights were long and all I can really remember thinking to myself is I need this kid to be okay. I needed prayer and I needed it quickly. I got on my Facebook page and posted a picture begging for my prayer warriors to pray for my baby. They did! Day by day things began to start looking up and getting better for him. From day one in ICU he was on oxygen, by-pap machine, around-the-clock Albuterol, Magnesium, two antibiotics and fluids. He could not eat while on the by-pap machine because of the hazard if something were to come back up the mask would force it right back into his lungs.

I cannot describe the amazement the doctors seemed to have as my son began progressing. He was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure, asthma, status asthmaticus, and Influenza B. We never knew he had the flu and because we didn’t know it was able to exacerbate his asthma and attack his lungs. One of the most scariest things I have ever been faced with is that fear that you can do nothing for your child…but I did what I could do, the only thing I knew that I could do…pray! I am no saint by far and I certainly don’t sit up in the church pews every Sunday nor do I go to church Monday through Saturday for Bible study, but I do talk to God and I know that the power of prayer is never-ending. My prayer warriors prayed for my baby and he walked out of the hospital without any restrictions just 4 days later after being admitted. We now are using his preventative inhaler every day along with his allergy pill at night because we want to prevent this from ever happening again. The thing about the preventative inhaler is that it’s a steroid but I was so uneducated about it. It does not have anywhere near the effects that the oral steroids have because it is an inhalant that is going directly to the lungs and does not go into the bloodstream. The inhaled corticosteroid such as Flovent is used every day to reduce the amount of inflammation in the lungs because honestly after each episode of asthma, I learned, it could take the airways months (meaning up to six months) to fully heal and the inflammation go away.

Idris' Acute Respiratory Failure - in ICU on by-pap machine
Idris’ Acute Respiratory Failure – in ICU on by-pap machine

But if another episode happens before they fully heal then they are starting from an already ailing point.

Education is key and I am humble enough to admit that I just did not know enough. Because my kid was in ICU it was mandatory to take an asthma education class while at the hospital before leaving. I welcomed the class and I learned A LOT!! I will share that info soon enough so stay tuned. Anyways the kid is back to normal, riding his bike, getting on my nerves, you know, back to life and we have ‘asthma action plans’ hanging up in our kitchen and plan to send a copy to school when it starts back along with his inhaler. We never realized how bad his asthma was but thank God he pulled through that.

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