It started with an almost silent, innocent and occasional tickle. It ended with violent, debilitating and constant hacking. Somewhere in between we found the drugs, he fell asleep exhausted and I cried.
We were saved when the calm soothing voice of the doctor told him to “just relax, be the boss of your cough, everything is going to be ok, push your belly out when you breathe, use your nose to overcome your inflamed airway and it will all be ok….” Apparently, all we needed was a little hypno-babble, a bottle of water, a referral to a speech therapist for breathing lessons and a permission slip to pee…and cough… as much as he wanted to at school.
The boy has been ill the last few weeks. It was nothing more serious than a simple virus that morphed into his attempt to remove both of his lungs by violent expulsion.
At an earsplitting level.
Every 3 seconds.
We’ve been to the doctor too many times. He’s had hot baths and hot cocoa and Life Savers. He’s had nose sprays and allergy medications and antibiotics. He’s had pep talks and motherly love and fatherly concern. He’s had codeine and cough suppressants and ibuprofen. He’s had enough steroids to make him either ineligible for his Little League team or the MVP of the entire region. He’s had x rays and blood draws and breathing treatments.
We’ve been charged more co-pays in the last two weeks than we normally pay in a year. The bills that will arrive in the next few weeks will be more money than my so called writing career produced all of last year. The boy has missed more school in two weeks than the teenager has in 9 years. The family has been stressed. The family has been annoyed. The family has been altered. We’ve been put out. We’ve been inconvenienced. We’ve eaten too much pizza. The boy has eaten too much chicken soup. The boy has lost 3 pounds. I’ve probably gained them. The teenager accused him of faking it. The husband secretly wanted to escape to work.
We’ve filled out more forms than it takes to become a citizen. We’ve divulged our inner most secrets to the computer system. The thread count of our bed sheets, the sleeping preferences of our pets and my penchant for nasty Mexican TV dinners during pregnancy has been thoroughly analyzed and critiqued by those who apparently know more than we do. I’ve been asked if I’ve ever been concerned about the boy’s heart rate. I’ve been asked if the boy’s toe lint has ever appeared abnormal. I’ve been asked if I feel safe in my own home and if the husband is a threat to a stable family environment.
I’ve been asked why I wasn’t concerned when I heard that first tickle in his throat.
What I heard was, “Why aren’t you a better mother?”
I’ve been upset. This has been rough. We’ve had it hard.
And then, finally, we walked out of the children’s hospital, after our final visit with our specialist, the one who’s from the Mayo Clinic, the one who ALL the coughing people go to, the one who held the magical answers.
It was then that we saw the girl.
She was 2 weeks old. She was tiny. Her parents seemed so very young. She was in an adorable pink car seat attached to a stroller. She was sleeping.
Her father carried her oxygen tank while her mother pushed the stroller.
She needed that tank to live.
And as we waited for our elevator, we glanced back at that sweet baby girl.
And we felt lucky.
Check This Out!
In our many days of illness the Slightly Exaggerated family has watched Bolt, Hotel for Dogs and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Not being picky folk, we enjoyed them all. The coughing boy would like to point out that Journey to the Center of the Earth was his favorite. The husband would like to recommend the book, The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby. This has kept him occupied during many waiting room sessions. I would like to recommend the August, 2006 issue of Good Housekeeping. They have a great chicken recipe that I know you’ll love.