Thursday. Just after midnight. Child wakes with sudden breathing problems — croup, but not a croup that seems to be touched by steam or cold air or anything we can think of in our half-awake state, and we throw on clothes and rush out of the sleeping house and drive to the hospital, me urging Kevin to run red lights if he needs to (which he doesn’t choose to do). Running through the doors at emergency and saying, please help, he’s having trouble breathing. Emergency room is crowded, and I know people are thinking, great, I’ve been waiting for hours and that kid is now ahead of me, and then, when they hear him struggling and panicking, I feel a sense of pity from the room. People are glad they’re not us.
We are being taken care of. We are hurried in to the back room and given a bed where he’s stripped down and his vitals are monitored. We have to wait for a mask to be prepared and meantime he’s transformed into a melodramatic child actor, howling, “Doctor, save me! I’m going to die! I’m never going to get out of here alive!” At least he’s talking and that means he’s breathing. Kevin and I are both embarrassed … it’s like the kid is reading lines off a soap opera script. But the nurse soothes us. She says people of all ages come into emergency in an utter panic when struggling to breathe. She says people say all kinds of panicked things. They’re used to it here.
We are able to laugh about it. We are able to laugh about the fact that he chose tonight to wear his favourite pink Ruby pajamas (passed down from his older sisters), and with his long blonde hair, no one can remember that he’s not a girl.
He’s got a mask. Then medicine. Then another mask. His stomach doesn’t have to work so hard to push the air in and out. And his oxygen levels remain good. As his breathing becomes more comfortable, I wonder, was he really in danger? Parenthood: filled with second-guessing. When I should just be grateful that he’s clearly improving, that the medicine is working.
I think of Anne of Green Gables saving Diana’s little sister from the croup, with ipecac. I think of how suddenly this situation arrived, with no warning. Kevin goes home to the still-quiet house. I stay in the narrow hospital bed with the kid who is now wired from the medicine and who talks non-stop in his loud, gruff, unique voice until five o’clock in the morning, when finally he’s able to relax and rest. I dream we are in a hospital. Maybe it would be impossible not to, with the sounds of beeping machines all around us.
At one point, during a discussion on dinosaurs, I say that maybe he’d like to be an archeologist when he grows up. “Not an archeologist, Mom. A paleontologist!”
This isn’t the post I’d planned to write today. I thought I would write about how blessedly fleeting disappointment is, how quickly it’s left me, and how already I am embracing a strong sense of onward, ho!, excitement for what’s ahead, and appreciation for the crazy and wonderful journey I’ve been on this fall. Did I need a lesson in perspective, if that’s what this is, if life is about lessons at all, which I’m not sure that it is? I’m not sure what this means, other than I’m tired and grateful for our health care system. I’m grateful for health and for life and for breath. I’m grateful, all around.