Our world went topsy turvy yesterday when my nanny walked into my son’s room to find him on his belly, neck flexed and thick and craned toward the ceiling, face beet red.
He wasn’t breathing. She performed CPR. When that didn’t seem to do much, she held him upright and gave him big pats on the back.
Eli seemed to be choking on something, she said. Once she got him upright, he stopped choking and started sucking in labored, wheezy, shallow breaths.
After our initial panic and rush to the ER, a big question remained.
Namely: What in holy hell was that?
Background – a timeline:
Friday: Starting Friday just about five days prior to the Tuesday afternoon incident, Eli began to cough. His cough wasn’t of too much of a concern to us. It sounded small, possibly just him clearing his throat from nasal drainage. The real trouble was massive congestion that was keeping him up at night.
Monday: When the coughing got worse a few days in, we started to make plans to get him on an antibiotic. With CF, a regular cold can flare up bacteria jammed into the stickier, thicker-than-average mucus that gathers in his lungs on account of the wonky way his cells work. The same mucus is in the sinuses. We tend to wait five to seven days to start an antibiotic to see if he can ward off whatever ails him on his own.
Tuesday: Overnight Monday to Tuesday his cough took a turn. It had bite, like it cut deeper into his chest. It was a hack. Still, I wasn’t overly concerned.
Then everything accelerated.
The crud took over.
Nanny M walked into his room and found Eli in a state of respiratory distress.
I called his clinic when I should have called 911. It didn’t register at the time that my son had actually stopped breathing. I’m sure that’s what she told me — I don’t even remember a day on. Nanny M took care of his distress and called me, I called the clinic. The clinic told me to find his bronchodilator, a medication called albuterol also used by asthmatics and children with tight airways on account of an illness. I called Mark and told him to rush home and look for it.
We hadn’t needed the medication for months. He has never coughed to the point he couldn’t breath. I doubt he’s ever had a coughing fit that would register as decent in the CF world.
I had no idea albuterol could even be used during a coughing fit. Worse,Mark couldn’t find it anywhere. And I was mad about that — at everyone and no one, mostly myself, so I took it out on Mark – of course!
I’m driving and screaming at him on the phone to find the *expletive* albuterol and get my baby to the *expletive* ER and *expletive* call *expletive* 911.
Just keeping it classy.
“Ju, he’s breathing again. Where are you?”
“I’m half way there. I’m sorry. I’m really scared.”
I hang up and start sobbing. Driving, yelling and sobbing. Not a good combo.
A switch flipped; the voice of reason kicked in. These emotions were useless and would only serve to get me in a car accident.
Calm washed over me as stealth ninja mom mode commenced.
Eli was breathing, but not just fine, as we rushed him to the ER. His wheeze sounded as if he was sucking in air through a crummy old coffee stirrer, and he was breathing fast.
I sat by him and shushed him and sang songs to keep him calm as Mark drove.
A nurse checked his vitals moments after we entered the Children’s ER (Thank God there is a nearby Children’s ER in my city).
The place was packed. One of Mark’s students was there. She broke her arm because someone pushed her down the stairs at school.
And Eli’s vitals were fine! Oxygen saturation at 97 percent (a little low for him but fine), heart rate, blood pressure, everything.
What the hell?
It was time to hurry up and wait.
He got a room, a chest X-ray, a throat swab, a breathing treatment, a new prescription for albuterol and a consult with the doctor and advice from the on-call pediatric pulmonologist.
But what happened to him? Why couldn’t he breathe?
The ER doctor’s best theory is that he could have hacked up a plug of mucus, sucked it down his airway and coughed on it.
We received word that he didn’t have flu, but the results for around 25 other viruses would come back the next morning.
It may sound odd but I felt so calm and relieved and lucky being there. I felt lucky because I could take care of my little boy. A choir sang in the lobby to the sick kids and their family members, many of them at the hospital for more dire circumstances than ours, no doubt. Just two years ago, that’s where my family was.
Today I took Eli to the CF clinic for more answers.
He had that damn Mexican lager virus last year and it had messed with him badly then.
But not this badly!
Google search has informed me this virus is especially shitty and comes in six varieties, one of which was behind SARS in 2003. Yay.
Damn you corona virus. You make me want to have a giant margarita with upside-down Corona in it after this mess!
The physician’s assistant we saw agreed with the ER doctor’s theory about choking on a piece of crud.
In addition, the combination of a piece of crud, his crummy airways and distress could have led to a bronchospasm, essentially the same type of thing asthmatics deal with, in which muscles around the bronchial tubes (I’m so tired and need to double check that fact) tighten up and constrict the airways.
Anyway, he was beet red and straining because every ounce of his toddler being kicked up a fight to expel and breathe, the physician’s assistant said. Muscles in his sides, his tummy his neck, his throat engaged hard, pushing pushing with an instinctual urge to survive.
I’ll get the final word from Dr. Royall on the events, probably tomorrow.
Eli is now on an antibiotic, and we switched to nebulized albuterol (ie a mist pumped from a compressor through a mask) as opposed to puffs of it via an inhaler and spacer. We thought he responded better to that at the hospital than his puffer of last night.
The other key thing relayed to me: what happened to Eli is not a common CF occurrence.
I don’t want to make anyone unduly frightened that their CF toddler will just stop breathing during a nap.
Along the lines of toddlers in general — This age, 1-3, is at risk for inhaling food and/or small objects and toys into the lungs. That can also cause choking, obviously, but also respiratory distress and wheezing.
This incident, for us, highlighted major holes in our emergency procedures!
I’ll write more about that later.
I just wanted to make a note that my son is OK. He is still cruddy and hacking, but that’s a good thing; he’s moving whatever crap ails him the mutha frack out.
He is not wheezing any more, but I’ll be waking him up in a few hours for more albuterol.
We got so many nice notes and offers of help after our pals heard Eli had a scare. Thanks for being so supportive, everyone.
In other news, I finally got Eli to wear a mask at clinic, somewhat. I had to act like a pirate and an Amish woman to do it, but it got us half way there.
I have to give it up for my nanny.Nanny M checked on Eli in his crib because he was late waking up. That’s when she found him struggling to breathe. She may have saved his life.
Now to brainstorm something really nice to do for nanny M.