1 week ago:
My eyes are slowly drifting open. The sound of coughing, barking, or maybe some kind of machine failure fills my ears. It takes me a little bit to wake up properly and realise scream crying and gaging noises are accompanying the strange noise. Adrenaline rushes through me and I am wide awake with realisation that the noise is coming from Daniel. As I get out of bed, I see that Aaron is not here. He must be up with Daniel already. How long had I slept through his horrible sounding cough and crying? I must have been in a deep sleep. It’s only 10:30 and I’ve only been asleep for an hour.
Daniel is coughing a so loudly and uncontrollably that he is gagging and throwing up a little. It’s not a normal cough, but a strange sounding one, kind of like a dry bark. His coughing is distressing him so much that he is also screaming and crying and Aaron is having a hard time comforting him. He wants me to lay with him in his bed, but first I have to put his dinosaur sleeping bag in the wash, as there is mucous-y vomit all over it, making this only the second time in his entire life that he’s thrown up.
The crying stops when I lay down with him in his small junior sized bed. Instead his every breath is audible and seems to be a struggle.
“I’m calling the doctor.” I tell Aaron. The crying starts again as I exit the bed to get my phone. I’m told there is a 5 hour wait for the after hours home doctor.
“You can call the medical advice line in the mean time.” The operator tells me. I do it straight away. I tell them about the horrible sounding cough, the laboured breathing, and the coughing so much he vomited. I put my phone up to Daniel’s face, much to his displeasure, and let the doctor on the phone listen for herself. He coughs while the phone is next to him.
“I suggest you take him to the emergency room, that sounds like a bad case of croup.” She tells me. I’ve called the medical advice line a few times before, and they’ve never told me to go to the hospital, so I know it’s not just a standard line they give everyone.
There is a general hospital about 3 minutes away, but there is also a children’s hospital about 25 minutes away.
“Ok Buddy, we’re going to take a little trip to the Children’s hospital. I’ll get dressed and pack my iPad and stuff and then we’ll go.”
“Can I come too?” Hannah asks.
“No sweetie, it’s night time and you have school tomorrow, you need to sleep.”
“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL!!!!!” Daniel is upset and crying again.
“It’s ok Daniel, the Children’s hospital is really fun!” I hear Hannah telling him while I get ready to go. “There are toys there, and it’s only for kids! There is a playground, and they are really nice, and it’s so much fun. You’ll love it there. Don’t be scared Daniel, it’s good there. I wish I was going.”
Hannah’s kind words calm him down and his screaming is replaced by excitement. I’m not sure why she loves it so much. The only time she went she had pneumonia and pretty much laid in my lap the whole time. She played on the playground for about 2 minutes, but that was it. But I suppose that experience was much better than the time she went to the local general hospital when she was under 2, had a 40 degree (104) fever and refused to drink anything. I took her to the doctor who told me to take her straight to the hospital. She was admitted for the night as she was so feverish and dehydrated. They tried at least 3 times to get a cannula in, but failed every time. They never did end up getting one in so that she could get the fluids so so desperately needed. They also needed to check her for a UTI, to see if that was the cause of infection, which entailed 3 doctors holding her down on a bed as she screamed the most horrible, heart breaking scream I’ve ever heard in my life while another doctor shoved a small catheter tube inside her.
Again, they failed. While I held her hand and tried my best to avoid crying so that I didn’t upset her even more, they held her down and did the whole thing again, failing for second time. They couldn’t get the cannula in, and they couldn’t get the catheter in, but despite not actually being able to do anything for us, they made us stay all night. I was about 37 weeks pregnant at the time but Hannah was too terrified by that stage to sleep in the hospital bed all by herself, so both of us slept in her bed together. She took ages to fall asleep after all her trauma and when she finally did, they shoved a thermometer under her arm, waking her up, as they did every hour. Haven’t they ever heard of an ear thermometer that won’t wake sick kids up all the time? It was horrible. Needless to say, I now drive the extra 20 something minutes to the children’s hospital.
I bundle Daniel up and put him in his car seat after warming up the car so it’s not too cold inside.
Since the kids go to bed at 6:30pm, they don’t often get to ride in the car in the dark. I thought Daniel might fall asleep on the way, but instead he is looking at all the lights, cars, buses, and trucks. “Mommy, I see, a truck!!” He tells me with excitement. The car ride seems to be calming him down, but I can still hear his loud breathing.
“Look, there’s Wet ‘n’ Wild!” I say as we pass the giant water slides. For some reason, all the lights on the slides and stairs are on, even though it’s the off season and it hasn’t been open for two months, not to mention it’s now 11 something at night. I wonder how much money they waste on electricity?
After parking at the hospital, a triage nurse greets us straight away to assess Daniel. He hasn’t coughed much in the car, but he sneezes in front of her, which also has the trademark croupy bark noise.
“Yeah, that sounds like croup.” She tells me. She gives me a number with an A in front of it and tells me that I will be next because no one else in the waiting room has an A ticket.
Sure enough, he is seen about 20 seconds later. Although croup is a caused by a viral infection, and antibiotics don’t help, oral steroids are given to open up his airways. “We will check him again in one hour to make sure the medicine worked, and then, if he is doing well, you should be able to go home.” She gives me a pamphlet about croup before we go to the waiting room for an hour.
Croup is more common at night, when it’s cold, and is often sudden, like it was with Daniel. Hannah had croup a couple of months ago, but hers wasn’t nearly as bad as Daniel’s.
Daniel lays on me in a comfy plush chair (not like the chairs of our local ER) and tries to get comfortable for a nap. There are too many other people around though, and he is distracted. He really wants to lay down properly, but the chairs aren’t big enough.
I spot a long soft bench seat in the overflow part of the waiting room where the TV and wall toys are and carry him over. No one else is in there. He lays there for about 10 seconds before deciding that it’s play time, followed by iPad time. Oh well, at least he’s happy, and I can keep myself awake watching the weird movie about a kid with leaves growing on his ankle that is playing on the TV attached to the wall.
After an hour, they call him again, check his vitals, and then tell us we can go home if we see our usual doctor tomorrow. The steroids have done their job and there is no more laboured breathing or coughing.
When we get home, I sleep on the couch with him for the rest of the night, and I keep him home from daycare, since he has a virus and I expect him to be very tired and lethargic all day.
I am wrong. He is not tired, and doesn’t seem sick at all. Instead, he spends the day running around the house and jumping off the couch whilst I attempt to study for my chemistry final. The doctor says he can go to daycare tomorrow and to expect a bad night again.
We put a heater in the kids’ room as cold air negatively affects croup, but we still expect some coughing and waking. Luckily though, it never comes. They both sleep all night, and past their usual 6am wake up.
If your child has ever had croup. you know how scary it is. That cough is like no cough you’ve ever heard before, and the laboured breathing is enough to send us parents running with our kids to the ER. Although death from croup is rare, it’s far better to be safe than sorry. And perhaps it’s rare because so many of us seek immediate medical attention for it. I’m just glad that he is fine now.
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Daniel asleep on the couch few days later, after the lack of sleep caught up to him
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Copyright 2014 Sheri Thomson