Worried Sick

It’s been a hard day’s night. In Beatles-speak, I should be sleeping like a log.
Instead, I’m restless. A jangle of nerves. High on adrenalin from the past three days. Stress sitting on my right shoulder, strain on the left…

You see, our son Caleb was in hospital since Valentine’s night. This time, a double whammy of his ‘regular’ asthma attack, plus a side serve of pneumonia.
One minute he was playing at his cousin’s birthday party. A few hours later, we were rushing him to Emergency.

He’s had acute asthma for three years now. The staff at our local hospital know his familiar little face. Been there, done that too many times to count. So you’d think I’d know the drill by now.
You’d be wrong.

In hospital, I was the epitome of efficiency. The nurses and doctors (who, it must be said, are beyond super-superlatively amazing!) praised my calm…

But now that we’re home, my emotions are scrambled eggs.
My coping mechanisms aren’t, well, coping.
There’s the minutiae of our daily lives to deal with: the dishwasher to be stacked, school books to be ‘contact papered’, garbage to be taken out, ‘whites’ to be separated from ‘brights’, teeth to be flossed…
But I can’t seem to focus on anything; my thoughts flit about like butterflies with ADHD. I don’t even want to chat with the husband; I know I’ll snap at him.

And then come the questions – whirling dervishes in our minds:
Caleb asks:
Mum, what’s pneumonia?”
“Can children die from asthma?”
“Why does that medicine taste yucky but this one tastes yummy?”

I ponder; I wonder:
“Could we have done anything differently?”
“Am I reading the signs wrong?”
“Are our genes to blame?”
“What if..?”
“Why..? ”

I find that I can deal with the physical strain of my kids getting sick:
Being jarred awake by the three-hourly alarms to give Caleb his Ventolin (takes me back to those breast-feeding nights!)…
Disinfecting every conceivable surface at 2am when Caitlyn vomited her guts out…
Bringing order back into our lives when sickness derails our routines with a ‘Who cares?’ toss of her head…
Like most parents, I ride out these speed bumps on auto-pilot.

It’s the emotional upheaval of seeing my kids ill that gets to me.
Perhaps it’s the helplessness of not being able to ease their pain…
Perhaps I’m feeling sorry for myself…
Perhaps their sickness makes me come face-to-face with my own unspoken fears and vulnerabilities…

Or perhaps the emotional bond that connects me to my children is far more tenacious than the umbilical cord we once shared.

So tell me, were you a sickly child? Or do you have one? Have you ever been admitted to hospital?

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20 responses to “Worried Sick

  1. Don’t beat yourself up about it too much Al. On many occasion, I’ve found myself yelling at the other half for overreacting… Only for the kids to be admitted into hospital. Point and case on the weekend. Sometimes I wonder why I’m not in hysterics but my husband is. It seems I’ve lost my motherly touch and he’s finally developed his. Hope that motherly instinct eventuates into washing the dishes! 😉

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    • Denise, you know what they say, opposites attract. I guess it’s helpful for one half to stay calm while the other freaks out in times of crises. In my case, B is the calm one – I grudgingly marvel at his calm composure while I’m hyperventilating!

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  2. Thinking of you all Alison! We brought Hazel to hospital for something very similar when she was 9 months old. She spent 7 days there and I can still remember that feeling of hopelessness. It is worse than a ‘feeling sick’ feeling. The worse feeling in the world! I hope he gets better very soon and you can get back to normal.

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  3. Al, a great big giant unstoppable hug. I can’t imagine the nightmare but I did go through this horrible drill when my son Daniel was three. On his birthday we had to rush to hospital. It was an agonising time. I was expecting Danica and the kind of horrible doctors we met were enough to frighten the calmnest of souls.
    I hope the worst is behind all of you. My prayers are with little Caleb. They are so cute and constant with their questions. Hope time eases things out.

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    • Thanks Abi. Thank God our doctors at our local hospital are amazing – so caring with an excellent bedside manner. Yes, the worst is behind us, though I am bracing myself for our coming winter which is always tough on Caleb. Hugs to D & D!

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  4. That was me right there from the age of 8 till 13 (not to mention my near death at age 4 due to a complication from wrong medication for a cold!) 😦 My heart goes out for Caleb and for you. I would be hospitalized 5-6 times a year back then for asthma attacks Alison. Don’t know how I passed through all those grades?! As a mother I now understand what my mother must’ve been through even though I always had an idea. And I also understand what you must be going through but hang in there, it will get better with age and no point beating yourself up about passing on genes….there’s just nothing positive that will come out of it (at least that’s what I tell myself every time my son gets a bad cold and I stand over his bed when he’s fast asleep and try to hear any signs of wheezing. Waiting to see everyday if I have passed on my bad genes to them 😯).
    Sending big hugs your way and hoping he’s back on his feet real soon! Take care.

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    • Lubna, I had no idea you had asthma as a kid. I guess we weren’t aware of problems we didn’t face ourselves when we were little.
      No matter how many times Caleb goes to hospital, it still sends me into a tailspin.
      As for the bad genes, I put the blame solely on my husband! 😉

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  5. Alison. It’s good to learn that Caleb. Is on the mend, I am fully aware of what an asthmatic patient goes through . What surprises me that through all this you have the time & energy. To reply to every comment on FB, as well as keep your blog updated.

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    • Hi Uncle Trevor, I drafted the blog post the night we returned from hospital – was so pumped up with adrenaline and cortisol, I just couldn’t sleep a wink. Even though I was weary beyond words.
      As for the FB messages, I’d replied to a some on the first day, so thought I’d better reply to the rest, or it would be bad mannered of me. After all, so many took the time and trouble to contact me…

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  6. Alison, my daughter Fiona was hospitalized at birth and was in hospital for the first 5 months or so. We’ve been through surgery six times and she’s now one happy kindergartner with mercifully no memories of those days. It was a nightmare- I was on a first name basis with too many pediatric surgeons and nurses as I practically lived at the hospital. Please please don’t ever feel you did anything wrong or passed on bad genes. These events give the kids the strongest of wills to survive and just get on with their lives. I truly feel your anguish and helplessness. Hang in there. One day this will be just a memory.

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  7. My son aged 7 has just been discharged from hospital for the second time in a month with the exact same thing. Reading your post made me cry for the first time. I’ve been asking myself those questions too. He’s on the mend but I can’t relax, when will the next bout be? Thank you for your post!

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    • Sending you big hugs, Claire. That’s always our fear, isn’t it – not if, but when will it happen again… I’ve had to reassess our asthma management plan and now hope for the best. Fingers crossed, both our sons come out the other side stronger.

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  8. Pingback: Lights Out! | liaisonwithalison·

  9. Good to know Caleb is better, take care of yourself too. Asthma in your child is very stressful and I fully empathise with you. We struggled with N’s asthma for years until we saw a paediatric asthma specialist who changed our lives for the better. I’m sure you are in good hands but think out of the box, dairy is a big trigger for both N and M. As he gets older he will identify his symptoms earlier, does help to prevent it from getting so severe. Goodluck. Hugs to all.

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