This past November we had a scary moment for our family. Freya was in the hospital for a few days after taking a major asthma attack. As a mother of an asthmatic child already, I had been down this road before. It doesn't make it any easier. It doesn't matter if your child is taking her first asthma attack or her 25th. I hate every second of it. I'm a severe asthmatic myself so I know what its like to feel like your drowning with no water. Your lungs tighten until you can't speak anymore and your panicking.
We started out going to a walk in clinic. It was Monday which is dance class night with our oldest daughter, Morrigan (11). We were all in the car waiting in the parking lot which was unusual. My husband normal takes our oldest to dance because little miss Freya can't sit still and be calm during dance class. So, to not disturb the two classes going on, its best to keep Freya home and that usually means I stay home. Freya was bouncing around the car but she was getting winded and needing to take breaks which is unusual for the human energizer bunny. When I started to buckle her back in I noticed her breathing was really labored. This sets off those mommy alarms that have yet to fail me. My husband, who usually is a wait and see kind of guy knew if there was one thing I was certain about, it was breathing problems. He went inside and pulled my oldest out of dance class early and we went straight in to the walk in clinic.
Morrigan had a bit of a cough too so while we were there, we got both kids checked out. Morrigan was deemed fine and Freya was looked over, given an x-ray because she was wheezing, given a breathing treatment and sent home. Her X-ray was clear of pneumonia and once she took the nebulizer treatment, her wheeze had stopped. It was a cold night so they couldn't seem to get a read on her oxygen level saying her fingers must be too cold but they said she was fine. We thought that was it, we would be fine. But as soon as we got home and I was playing with her on the floor, her breathing seemed worse.
Growing up an asthmatic, I knew those behaviors that indicate an asthma attack. My mom was the type to point it out and when my brother got asthma, she made sure I could identify those behaviors in him since he was young and often ignored an asthma attack until it was severe. Its such a typical kid thing, they rather play than to get an inhaler. It was the tick cough for Morrigan that first alerted me something was wrong. For Freya, it was her stomach pulling in sharply as she breathed. Small children that are struggling to breath look different than an older child. With older children their chest will seem like its sinking in. With younger children, like toddlers, their stomachs will rise and fall rapidly.
I knew breathing treatments were not going to be enough, she needed steroids. I knew it in my heart, or maybe my gut, which ever part of the body that tells a mom that despite what the professional says, YOU KNOW BETTER. My husband and I were in a disagreement. He didn't think we gave the breathing treatment enough time. By normal standards we didn't. But I have been in countless situations as a asthmatic that if I waited those 4 hours I'd be dead. So, I called the one person I knew would make me feel like I wasn't over reacting, my mom. She is the only other person I know that has been through this as a mom. She had doctors telling her my brother was the worst child case they had ever seen. My mom had been there the several times I was close to death, passing out in the ER waiting room from lack of oxygen. If you could be deemed an expert on experience alone, she would be. She asked me if her lips were really red. I wouldn't think red, I'd think blue from lack of oxygen. Apparently, really red is a sign of an asthma attack too. Freya's lips looked like she had lipstick on it was so red. That was it, I was sold. To the ER we went.
At the ER, again they couldn't get a read on her. It was coming up 90% oxygen level but the nurse said she seemed fine. I was so scared they would put us off and not take me serious. I knew she was worse than she seemed. Then another nurse walked by and looked at her. She noticed her heart rate showed she was really working hard to breath. That's when we were rushed right in. A doctor, an RN, an a CNA met us at the door. They rushed her right in and started on breathing treatments, oxygen, and steroids. The doctor was very understanding and didn't deny it was probably asthma but it was only her second time with breathing problems and the last time was over a year ago. He did say, with the family history, it was most likely asthma. After we discussed the family history and how severe those cases are, he stopped referring to it as acute aspiration. He said that when she is discharged, it will say acute aspiration since this was really the first hospitalization. But I needed to talk to her pediatrician about our options as an asthmatic.
I have to say, ER doctors usually follow the book pretty much to the letter. They rarely make assumptions about long term health and even more rare is the doctor that will confess the book is not always right. I had to fight in the beginning with ER doctors with my oldest. Luckily, my pediatrician at the time was my old pediatrician and knew our family well. She knew my kids would more than likely be asthmatics, its genetic. After the first major hospitalization for Morrigan, we got a nebulizer and meds with a rescue inhaler for when we were out from our old pediatrician. We just changed pediatricians that day as my pediatrician was retiring. I had no idea how this new pediatrician would feel about me insisting Freya was an asthmatic after only two events. We had yet to meet this pediatrician, so I was nervous.
Meanwhile, the hospital moved us to the children's ward. Freya and I stayed there over night. They woke her up every two hours for a breathing treatment. At first, Freya fought it tooth and nail. She screamed, swatted, and twisted her little body to avoid the mask. The woman from respiratory had the patience of a saint to deal with Freya every two hours, all night long. But once her daddy and her sister came to see her, she was thrilled. She was excited and energized even with the little amount of sleep she got. But it was a Tuesday and Morrigan had school. So when Morrigan left, all hell broke loose.
Freya loves her sister, more than anyone in this world. When her sister left for school, she screamed, "My Morrigan! My Morrigan! Bring back my Morrigan!" The nurses came in with coloring pages and crayons, toys from the play room, pudding from the kitchen. Nothing calmed Freya down. She's not the kid that is easily distracted. This kid has a one track mind and she doesn't like to be left out of something. Being stuck in a hospital room was like being in prison for her. She did not like being confined. That was when she started venturing out of her room and running down the hall. We eventually found our way to the play room. As much as she had fun in the play room, there was barely any toys. Plenty of big toys but there were car tracks with no cars and doll houses with no dolls. Freya is lucky, she had a big sister to pack her some toys from home. She was able to play with the toys in the toy room because she had the smaller toys from home. So, if you're getting rid of those Fisher Price Little People, some old Matchbox cars, some baby dolls, kitchen food, etc, check with your local hospital's children's ward to see if they need some toys. I'm sure they end up losing those little toys to the sick kids staying there and can always use more. Our hospital had video game systems for the older kids. They had a PS 3 and a few Nintendo Game Cubes. There were baby toys and crib toys for the tiniest of patients.
My parents came to visit later that evening. Freya was doing well and running from the room straight to the toy room pulling one of her grandparents along with her with a very insistent, "Come here, Papa! Come here." She pulled my mom in first to play then my dad. She was excited to show them all the new toys she got to play with while she was visiting the hospital. One thing can be said about Freya that day, she sure knew how to make the best of it. My parents brought me much needed supplies for myself and bought Freya a little stuffed Rudolph. In the ER, they gave Freya a Christmas beanie baby bear that was white with holy printed all over him. She hugged that bear so tightly through it all. Now her bear had a little friend and they stayed together on her bed and she held those stuffed toys all night.
Freya made such progress, our two night stay turned into a one night stay. They told us, if she continued to have a good oxygen level once they lowered the frequency of her breathing treatments from every 2 hours to every 3 hours then to every 4 hours, then she could go home at 7 p.m. To be honest, I was doubtful. She went from having the alarms going off all night because she would dip bellow 87% oxygen. She couldn't sleep without oxygen and then they were all fine sending her home just 12 hours later. I didn't think her oxygen levels would stay up that long off oxygen. After the whole, "poor reading" thing at the walk in clinic and the ER check in, I wasn't sure I felt comfortable believing the doctors.
When my parents left they made the mistake that they were going to watch Morrigan so my husband can run some errands. Again, Freya screamed for her Morrigan and actually ran out after my parents. A doctor was coming in so the locked door was open. If I didn't grab her, she would have made it out. Now I was out of breath. Luckily, she wasn't! I started my own little tests, saying the ABCs and counting how many breaths she takes during it. All the pauses matched up to the song. Then I had her run from the door to the bed and back again then tested her oxygen level. It stayed about 97%! I was feeling more and more comfortable with the idea we might be heading home soon.
The last dose of steroids was a disaster but luckily the doctor felt comfortable with her going home without that last dose. My husband brought in some McDonald's since Freya loves her "burgas". It wasn't long after we ate that the doctor came in and gave the okay for Freya to be discharged. What a relief! But its not like I slept that night. No, of course I sat up all night watching her breath. There were no more monitors watching her oxygen level, no nurses checking on her, no oxygen blowing on her all night. It was all her and I felt like I had to take the place of those monitors.
The great news, she did fine after that. She continued to cough but not wheeze. The cold that triggered the asthma was still there but she was no longer struggling to breath. A few days later we had our follow up appointment with the new pediatrician. To my relief she too felt with the family history, she had no problem labeling what happened to Freya as an asthma attack and if this continue to be a problem she would put her on a controller medication if I felt it was necessary. We both agreed it was too early for a controller medication but it was great knowing the doctor wouldn't have a problem with it, if and when we get there.
Although this was a scary moment for us, it went pretty easy. Moral of the story, don't ignore those feeling that you, the parent, know better. My old pediatrician always used to ask, "What do you think, Mom?" because she was a strong believer that parents just know their children. Parents know when their kids are acting different. They know when something just isn't right. Even if the parent was wrong, at least she would tell you why and ease your fears. That's what I've always loved about my pediatrician and why I am so sad to see her retire. As parents, we really need to feel confident with our instincts. They rarely let us down. I often question myself in fear of overreacting. But its better to overreact than under-react. Sometimes, no, most of the time, Mommy knows best!