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.
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?