I should have been a doctor.
As the mom of two little boys, I have become quite adept at handling all of the bumps, bruises and seemingly never ending runny noses of youth.
I have discovered that kids are freaking germ factories and that if one has a cold — no matter how much you employ the Lysol — the other one is bound to get sick too. There’s just no escaping it and not enough Purell in the world.
That being said, when my 4-year-old, Ben, came home from school on Thursday with a cough, I didn’t think a whole lot about it. I ran the humidifier at night and kept a steady supply of apple juice in his sippy cup. When Sam, my 7-month- old, started with the sniffles a couple of days later, I just resigned myself to having a couple of sleepless nights.
I didn’t know just how spot on that prediction was to be.
By Monday, Sam was definitely not his usual happy self. My constantly smiling baby had become very clingy, difficult to soothe and just generally fussy. By Tuesday, he was running a low-grade fever and had a cough and a runny nose.
By Wednesday, his cough had turned from every now and then to the point where he couldn’t sleep without a coughing fit waking him.
Everybody was miserable, but it was about to get much, much worse.
On Thursday, when I went to pick Sam up, I noticed his lips and fingertips had a bluish cast to them and then in my arms he began panting and wheezing like he had just run a marathon.
I freaked out, threw him in the car and we flew to the emergency room.
Have you ever heard of RSV? I hadn’t but apparently it’s been making the rounds in the area. It’s a virus, so there’s no magical little pill you can give to fix it.
The problem with RSV is that it’s insanely contagious. And while adults and kids get it all the time, our air passages are big enough so that it doesn’t present too much of a problem. Sam’s weren’t.
At the hospital, with his pulse and oxygen hovering around the mid-70’s, we were admitted and Sam was put on oxygen. We stayed for four days.
Never having a child faced with a hospitalization before, I didn’t know how to take it. Part of me wanted to just break down in tears at the sight of my little guy hooked up to monitors and tubes, but the sane and rational part of my brain reminded me that it wouldn’t be the least bit helpful.
Instead, I trusted his doctors and nurses, followed instructions and remained calm. I was detached, clinical even. It was weird, it really seemed like some sort of switch was flipped in my head and I was able to keep a totally even keel about the whole situation, even after his symptoms worsened and he developed pneumonia.
I learned how to read a pulse ox meter, how to make sure the leads and sensor were properly secured. I learned how to administer breathing treatments and the importance of suction, suction, suction!
I learned what the ideal heart rate is for a baby Sam’s age, what his blood pressure should be, how to read a chest X-ray and how to count his breaths. I learned enough of the lingo to be able to converse intelligently with his doctors and nurses.
Finally, much to everyone’s relief, Sam was deemed well enough to come home.
And I lost it.
Everything I had been keeping bottled in for the past four days came rushing to the surface and I sobbed like a little girl, completely incapable of controlling myself now that the danger was behind us.
I was told later by someone that it was a “mom instinct” that kept everything at bay until we were safe and at home. Maybe. I suppose it’s as good of an explanation as any.
I prefer to think that I just missed my calling and would have made an awesome pediatrician. That is, until I came home and freaked out every night … Maybe not …
Either way, to the parents who have to deal with chronic illnesses and hospitalizations with their children, my hat is off to you. I don’t know how you do it day in and day out. Four days was plenty for me.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress, The Pickens Sentinel and Powdersville Post and can be reached at [email protected] Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.