overreaction

Catie’s had a cold since our camping trip last weekend. At first it was just an endlessly drippy nose, but yesterday her asthma started to flare up. I didn’t think too much of it right away, because it didn’t seem that bad. When she had an asthma crisis back in December, I knew something was wrong because she was lethargic and obviously miserable. She would only moan and cry when she woke up, then go back to sleep. But with this current cold, she’s generally been pretty cheerful and acting like her normal self. I mean, yes, she’s been wheezing a little bit off & on, but she’s also singing, laughing, and narrating little stories that her toys act out. So we were giving her albuterol & pulmicort in the nebulizer – the way we normally treat her asthma – but I wasn’t that worried.

This morning, Dave got up with Catie to let me sleep in a little longer. (Love it when he does that.) A while later, he brought her upstairs to bed, and she snuggled in next to me. I was spooning her with my hand on her chest, and I could feel how rapid her breathing was, and how fast her heart was pounding. I told Dave we needed to give her some albuterol, and he said he had just done it a few minutes ago. I promptly freaked out and called the pediatrician. They told us to come straight in, which we did.

I think the words “asthma attack” have some sort of magical power on pediatricians. They were waiting for us when we got there, and brought us straight back to a room. The doctor came in immediately. They tried to get a pulse ox on Catie’s finger, but she wasn’t having it (oh, the shrieking), and they couldn’t get an accurate reading from her big toe. We finally got her to calm down enough that the doctor could listen to her chest with the stethoscope.

Not our usual pediatrician: Um, her lungs are clear.
Me: But she’s been wheezing since yesterday!
NOOP: When was her last albuterol treatment?
Me: About 45 minutes ago.
NOOP: Well, it’s clearly working because she sounds fine now.
Me: But she’s breathing so fast! And her heart is pounding!
NOOP: Well, albuterol does accelerate the heart rate…
Me: Um… it does? [Feel REALLY stupid for not knowing that.]
NOOP: Her airways are definitely open, she’s not in respiratory distress at all. I think the worst of the cold has probably passed, so just keep doing what you’re doing with the nebulizer and you should be able to wean her off the albuterol by Friday.
Me: Oh. OK.
~Fin~

I’ll be honest, I think part of the reason why I reacted so strongly was because I was thinking about Maddie. When I was lying in bed with Catie and I felt how fast and hard she was breathing, it scared the wits out of me. Before two weeks ago, it never once entered my mind that a child could ever just stop breathing.

I know that Maddie is an exceptionally rare case, I know the odds of anything like that happening to Catie are very remote. And yes, of course it has always been frightening to hear my little girl struggling to breathe, and it always will be. I just don’t know if or when this particular type of intense fear-that-the-worst-could-happen will subside. Am I overreacting? Very likely. But how can I not, when we’ve seen proof that sometimes the worst does happen, for no damn reason?

Seriously, how do you not overreact?

  1. She didn’t sound at all well, so I think it would have been a bad idea *not* to take her in. I suppose its hard to tell the difference between asthma and congestion sometimes.

    So not an overreaction!

    (BTW my motivations for giving you sleep-in time were mostly out of pure guilt for having slipped on my dishwashing duties this week 🙂 )

  2. Eh. That’s what doctors are there for. I just did the same thing this week, when I was having unexplained respiratory problems. Angie’s friend just died from a blood clot, and I went back to my doc for a second opinion, and he sent me to the ER to rule out blood clots. The ER docs thought my primary doc was overreacting, but since they didn’t have any other explanations they ran some tests. Turns out I have pneumonia, which can be treated easily. I always think people should be proactive about their health care, even if it feels like you’re being a pain about it or should somehow know better. No one else knows you (or your kid) like you do, and you were concerned. Totally did the right thing, IMHO.

  3. It didn’t sound like an overreaction to me AT ALL. I wouldn’t have known that Albuterol makes heart rate faster, either, and besides, it made you worry so it was worth getting peace of mind. Good mommy.

    I doubt that the fear of the worst case scenario will ever go away, since our own mothers still worry about us, and we’re healthy adults.

    And if those doctors get to drive around in BMWs, then they’d better earn them, and that means being there ANY time you need them to check something out that makes you worry. All kids should be as lucky to have parents like y’all who pay attention to those cues.

  4. You never know when things will crop up, and there are 3 things you don’t mess around with in kids: lungs, heart, brain. Anything else is fixable in either the short or long-term, and kids tend to go downhill a lot faster than adults do, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

    My short story about under-reacting: I had trouble breathing for about a week. Being pig-headed, I convinced myself that it was a combo of my allergies and asthma, plus a cold. Turns out that I had developed a blood clot in my leg and it had broken up, traveled through my heart, and whammo, pulmonary embolism. I had 41 clots between my 2 lungs. According to the docs and the statistics, I’m super lucky to be here today, so all I’m saying is, better safe than sorry when it comes to things essential to life like breathing. Splinters? Pink eye? Not such a big deal, so start worrying when you’re rushing Catie to the ER for those. 🙂

  5. One of our girls has night terrors. It’s not the screaming and cryng that scares me. It’s how fast her little heart starts racing. I swear I think it is going to come right through her chest.

    You’re her mom, you’re supposed to worry about these things.