by Ajike Akande
Where I live the temperature has dropped significantly and there is no denying we are deep in the heart of autumn. It’s either grey and rainy or brisk and sunny. With the arrival of autumn is also the arrival of flu season. Don’t worry this is not going to be a post about the flu shot and whether or not you should get it. In my house some of us get it, and some don’t for a variety of reasons. Regardless of the flu shot, however, our Mr. Lee will spend many weeks of the next six months hacking, taking his puffers and hanging out in the emergency room at our local children’s hospital. It’s all good times for him throughout the many months of cold!
Mr. Lee has poorly controlled asthma with a side of 4 anaphylactic allergies. He is also a buzzing, busy three year old who is otherwise healthy so I rarely shelter him from people who are sick, and therefore he catches every virus his snotty buddies have to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I encourage frequent hand washing and request that he not lick people as a way to greet them, but he’s wee, and if licking makes him feel closer to his friends, then that’s a risk we’ll have to take! Truth is, I would be happy if he got sick less and if every cough didn’t turn into a trip to the hospital for heavy doses of Ventolin (airway opener) and inhaled and liquid steroids. The high doses of steroids are really, really bad for a small body (any body actually) but when it comes to breathing the benefits outweigh the risks. It’s not just stress on his body that I am concerned about it’s also the monthly experience of spending time with a three year old fountain of energy loaded up with steroids! I am not exaggerating when I say that my three year old has ‘Roid Rage!
Do you know Animal from the Muppets? This is regular Animal. This is also essentially regular Mr. Lee.
This is what I imagine Animal looks like full of steroids and Ventolin. This is a fraction of Mr. Lee’s intensity when full of steroids and Ventolin.
Last weekend I spent two days hanging out in the emergency unit with Animal aka Mr. Lee.
I never forget that I’m a lucky mom. I know that Mr. Lee’s trips to the hospital will last only a day or two. He has never had to be admitted because we are now experienced and comfortable taking care of our sick, but pretty healthy, guy at home. We know when to return to the hospital and they’re always open (thanks for that, by the way). I’m surprisingly not worried about a sick Mr. Lee. Unfortunately, my chill attitude about our little asthmatic was challenged when I took him in last weekend and his oxygen saturation was low enough that he needed an oxygen mask. I was informed by the nurse, as she quickly got an oxygen mask on him, that my baby was apparently about to pass out. I was surprised he usually doesn't get that bad, but he gladly took the oxygen mask and gladly tore it off when he didn’t need it anymore. Being the weirdo that I am, as soon as I knew that Mr. Lee was okay and in good hands (i.e.: not mine), I stopped worrying about him and turned my attention to my favourite anxious thoughts reserved for when I am with my children’s health care providers: Do they think I’m a bad mother? Do I seem neglectful or uncaring? Do I seem totally neurotic? And my favourite over the top thought: Do I have Munchausen by proxy? Who thinks these things? Anyway, Mr. Lee must have noticed that I had hopped on my crazy, anxiety train and it was up to him to get me off. Fully loaded on liquid steroids and 34 (I kid you not) puffs within an hour of “rescue inhalers” to open up his airway, he got to work on redirecting my attention. How you ask?
You know who has an unnatural level of strength and anger? A three year old on a drug that increases his heart rate. I am not sure if Mr. Lee wanted to guarantee that I never have any more children (never going to happen) or that I never use the bathroom again without crying, but the swift kicks between my legs were a surefire way to guarantee that I remembered that he was the man of the hour. And why stop at kicking? He bit me, scratched me, slapped me and my favourite – he grabbed my face so hard with his razor sharp nails and held on while screaming at the top of his lungs. I had been trying to quell the screaming (to no avail) but was grateful for it when he wouldn’t let go of my face. A nurse – not our nurse, but a nurse taking care of a much calmer child, came into the room, wondering if I was removing hairs from my child’s head one at a time, causing him to scream out for help. She took one look at me and leach-boy and jumped into action to release Mr. Lee’s painful grip around my cheeks. After I told her that I loved her, as you do, she smiled and suggested that I walk the wild child around the emergency unit until the doctor could see him again. The walk about was a good idea indeed and grabbing sterile bottles and gauze and pushing dirty linen hampers around is not at all disruptive to the families with truly sick children and the health care professionals trying to care for them! Sorry hospital friends, I am hoping that the cost of hospital parking will cover the damages.
Listen, I am not giving up on our goal to drastically decrease the number of times we visit the ER this school year, but considering that this is the second time since the beginning of September, the odds aren’t looking so good. Of course the silver lining, because usually if you look hard enough, you can find it, is that nurse Anju and I can catch up every month and talk about our twins and I can watch another set of talented medical residents make it through another year. I am starting to feel a real closeness with the ER staff and let’s face it “sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name”!
Cheers, (just kidding)