Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Lahdeeda Spent Her Week

Warning: This is long... a bit winding... a bit of a long conversation to no one in particular. And I apologize for being windy and long today.

Few things are more scary than having a very sick child. There are worse feelings than the feeling that SOMETHING is wrong with your child, but you don't know what. There is that brief period of time, when you're watching your child, the time between a niggling sense of something and action, where you decide that something just isn't right... the fever is lasting too long, the cough is wrong, he's looking funny, something... just...something... then you make the decision and call or bring them in.

Now, he's fine. He's home and happy, and we're very happy he's home. But, you can understand, how scary it is, when your child is sick, and you have to make that decision to bring him/her in.

I didn't make the decision Monday night. He had a cold and a cough most of the weekend, starting on Friday, along with his brother. He played outside just fine Monday evening. On Monday night, he broke into a fever. He seemed a little uncomfortable, but he was sleeping, and sleeping is good. He was breathing a little fast, but nothing that registered as dangerous, though I noted it. He settled down with the Tylenol, sucking his fingers like he does.

I didn't make it Tuesday morning. He got up and came downstairs by himself, and got a sip of juice. He asked for breakfast, and decided not to eat it. I took his brother to gymnastics and kept Bear with me. He cried at Target. But he didn't have a fever.

I made it Tuesday afternoon. Bear had watched a show while Turbo ate lunch. He got up, brought over his blankie, and sat down on the floor by the stairs in front of me, indian style. He looked up at me with a slow, sweet smile. I remember it, the sitting down and the smile, because I wondered why he just sat down. Then I realized, it was because he was too tired to go upstairs. So I carried him upstairs, gave him some Tylenol and checked on him. Continuously. Something was just not right. I laid down next to him and listened to him breathe. He'd already had Tylenol, but he still was hot, still breathing fast. I counted his breaths. 61 a minute. I pinged a couple of my friends online about it at the same time I called the nurse. I left a message, but by the time I hung up the phone, I was getting ready to take him in. I wondered idly why I even bothered calling, but it was good I did, because she reinforced my concern, and said to bring him to Urgent Care. She also told me the urgent care in their building was linked to the pediatrics. So I knew to bring him there, instead of the one closer to my house. It's only a ten minute drive, so no real time was lost. She also told me they were seeing a 'lot of this' in peds.

I picked up Drama Girl at school on the way, it was dismissal time, and dropped her off at the entrance to our neighborhood. She walked to the neighbor's. I took Bear straight in, there was no traffic, and once there, we didn't even wait. After two breathing treatments I called Hubby McRed and told him where we were. After some chest x-rays, the urgent care doctor called the on-call pediatrician. He wanted to have us admitted and need the on-call peds to do it. The good news about the chest x-ray were they showed no pneumonia. The bad news was, the chest x-rays looked good, but that only made them meaningless. His oxygen levels were too low, and he was struggling. He was very sick, the dr. said, and he didn't treat clinics and labs, he treated patients and symptoms. Despite what the x-rays showed, Bear was struggling for breath.
I called Hubby McRed. Change of plans. We're going to the hosptial. Come straight here. The on-call peds called in orders. For us, the hospital is right across the street from urgent care. Very convenient. They gave us an oxygen tank. Bear was too tired to even walk. I'd been carrying him everywhere. He threw up on Hubby McRed. Not much, just a bit of liquid acid from his now-empty stomach.

But he was still sweet. And, still smiling at everyone. And when it got too much, he cried a little and I held him. Turbo had his stuffed bear. He explained to everyone how very sick his bear was, and demanded they take care of it.

We didn't have to wait long to be admitted, either. In fact, I was just beginning to fill out admittance paperwork when they called down that they wanted their patient upstairs now. Hubby McRed went upstairs with our little Bear while I filled out paperwork.

When I went upstairs, my little Bear was in a big bed, with oxygen tubes in his nose. They didn't look scary. He looked scary. Scary sad. Scary sick. A respiratory therapist was taking a good long listen at his lungs.

They told me they were treating it as though he had an asthma attack.

When the on-call pediatrician arrived, he reinforced that. He told me he had an asthma attack, a pretty bad one. He said when my normal doctor visited tomorrow, we should discuss preventative type treatments, especially with the seasons changing toward winter. He said they were going to watch the crud in his lungs to make sure it didn't become bacterial. It was just viral, and the viral infection is what triggered the attack.

That was all Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the doctor visited and said essentially the same thing. By now, Bear was sounding much better, and was talking. He still didn't have a lot of energy, but he sure was drinking a lot. This was the day I mostly forgot to eat. It was Hubby McRed's turn to spend the day and night with Bear, and he took Bear to the playroom, following him around with a little oxygen tank. He said that was nothing, compared to the guy following his daughter around with the IVs. I brought Drama Girl to visit after her dinner. I took Turbo to a neighbor's. Turbo was exhausted.

On Thursday morning, the doctor told Hubby McRed, not until Saturday. He did good most of Wednesday, but Wednesday night, his oxyen levels went down. But, on Thursday afternoon, he perked up. He got energy back. We spent most of Thursday in the play room, he just wanted... out... of... that... room. By Thursday night, he was running up and down the peds ward, breathless, but so much... better.

It was then the nurses told me it looked good for taking him home on Friday.

And on Friday, after a long week and an interminably long wait that lingered well into the noon hours, we finally got our papers...

Bear is home!


We have a nebulizer, and a follow-up appointment, but most of all, our little Bear.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to Raise Kids That Can Say No

Sanya asked what I'll do to keep my kids from smoking. Honestly? I'm already working on it.

The trick is to start now to stack the deck in your kids' favor. Teach your kids by your own example. Don't say, "Do What I Say." Make a commitment to live how you want your kids to live: "Do What I Do." Give them a sense of identity as part of the family that doesn't do 'those things.' And surround them with friends and adult confidants that will be there later when they need it but won't come to you.

The only way I know how to do this is how my parents did it. They took us to church every week as a family. But not only did we go to church, we lived religion at home too. We had a night each week dedicated to spending time together as a family. We prayed together. My friends were mostly church friends, and my church leaders were friends too.

I know the idea of joining a religion to keep your kids out of trouble is not incredibly attractive! There should be more to conversion than that. But I grew up in a religious (not fanatic) home, and I know it's what kept me out of trouble. My siblings and I didn't smoke, drink or try drugs during high school or college. I even remember when my folks were trying to get my brother to stop watching R-rated movies and had to give them up themselves.

Here are some things you can start doing now, whether you're active in a church or not:

* Find other parents that have the same values you have, that have kids the same age as yours. Church is great for this, but maybe playgroups or gymboree classes or things like that could help you find families like yours too.

* Get together frequently and encourage your children to make friends with this group. Continue to augment your group of friends with families that you think will be good examples and support to your child.

* Give your child freedom now to make choices, and let them suffer the consequences when they make bad choices. They need to learn early how choice and consequence works before the consequences are the serious kind they'll be facing when they're older.

* Spend time together as a family doing fun things, and also use this time to teach your family a system of moral values.

* Live those values yourself. If you don't want your kids to smoke, you don't smoke either.

* Set long-term goals as a family regarding what kind of family you want to be, and then constantly encourage and help each other achieve those goals.

* Don't forget that even the best parents that do everything they can still end up having kids that have problems. All we can do is our best, and then never give up and keep loving our kids no matter what.

Of course, it's really easy to say this stuff now. I was also a great parent before I had kids. So ask me again in 10 years how I'll handle these things. ;)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Do As I Say, Not As I Did

I quit smoking in October 2002, after just short of twelve years of the cancer sticks. I didn't smoke a LOT for the first two years, but once in college I got to a pack a day pretty fast. I never wanted to quit, either. I wasn't one of those whiners who hates herself. I enjoyed every minute. I loved the rituals, the accessories, the friendships, the easy camaraderie with other smokers. It calmed me, soothed me, gave me an excuse to bail from bad situations or linger in pleasant ones.

And frankly, it was an image thing, at least in college. I had a leather jacket and a zippo and I didn't give a damn if no one asked me to dance at clubs, because I was Mysterious and usually ended up with someone else being Mysterious. If I didn't hook up, I didn't care that much because I could spend the rest of the night carousing with my best friend, the one I met at orientation because we smoked the same brand. Playing pool was more fun. Darts were more fun. Road trips, work breaks, sanity breaks, all of them were better with cigarettes.

I should mention that I was a complete idiot about this. Some families have the genetic luck to be less than susceptible to cancer and smoking related illness, but I am not from one of those families. Ever see someone die of emphysema? I have. Not pretty. I smoked anyway.

My parents certainly didn't smoke, approve of smokers, encourage smoking, or in any way suggest that smoking was cool. They disparaged smoking and smokers from the moment I was born. I smoked anyway.

When I left The Horror (aka my ex), and into my first Very Own Apartment, I decided it would be a non-smoking apartment. I smoked on my patio, but never inside. I used to claim I didn't know why, but actually, it was because The Perfect Man didn't smoke. I knew my habit stunk like Satan's underwear marinated in elephant crap, but until the Perfect Man, I didn't care. So I steam cleaned and Febrezed my beige couch (and it turned out it was white with pink and blue flowers), washed all my bedding, and kept my sweet vintage ashtrays outside.

Then I noticed my dog choking up wads of brown phlegm.

She had always lived with chain smokers. The three years prior to the apartment were spent with four of us sucking down the coffin nails in a tiny unventilated basement. (You see how the couch turned brown.) I realized to my horror that second hand smoke was in fact BAD, that trapping other life forms with my smoke was bad, and that I'd done it to a helpless little beagle.

I guess that planted the seed. I still didn't want to quit, and I still don't understand how I quit cold turkey that fall. But I did. Haven't had a single puff since, because I'm pretty sure I can't quit a second time - and I'm pretty sure that if I were the type to have a single ciggy with a beer and stop, I wouldn't have smoked a pack a day for a decade.

Now I look at my beautiful son, with cancer on both sides of his family tree, and parents that border on OCD sometimes, and I think... well, I don't think anything, because I freeze in raw panic. I joke that my non-smoking, non-drinking, never even TRIED drugs husband is going to have the talk with the boy, but that's a copout.

What will I do? What did YOU do?

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Had a Brilliant Post All Ready

I had a post in my head last night, all planned out and everything. However, I was in bed when I did that planning. As an experienced writer, I long ago learned to keep a notebook and a pen by the bed for such occasions. Last night, I opted to just try and remember the post instead of reaching three feet across the bed and possibly touching the land mine, I mean my son.

You see, he was asleep.

Prior to that moment, he had not been asleep for nearly sixteen hours straight.

Those of you shuddering in sympathy agony obviously have a baby.

The night BEFORE last, my husband and I were dancing around the bedroom like idiots, because our son achieved a milestone previously reserved for the greatest and strongest of our entire species. No other baby ever achieved such magnitude, no other parents ever experienced such exultation. His first tooth came in. And by "came in" I mean "half a millimeter of enamel was above the gumline."

The miracle, of course, is that he didn't cry. He wasn't feverish. He appeared to cut that first tooth completely effortlessly. And then yesterday happened.

He woke up cheerful, and when the first naptime came around, he was still cheerful. He had his milk and drifted peacefully away. I was downstairs writing when we heard him chirp... twenty minutes after falling asleep. Uh... usually that first nap is two hours. We didn't worry - we were on our way to Grandma's house for family time, and that hour long car ride is good for catching up on naps.

Only he didn't catch anything but the view from his car seat.

We tried putting him down for a nap three times during the visit, as he got steadily more and more cranky from exhaustion. All attempts failed, although each time we snuggled up, he nursed greedily. His cousin was peaceful and charming, and our shrieking, squalling, red faced rageaholic was looking even worse by comparison. Finally, we bailed. He seemed to fall asleep before we hit the end of the driveway, but every time I checked the mirror, his eyes fluttered open.

"Mama, for god's sake, I'm wiped out, help me," ran the entreaties from his baggy eyes.

As soon as we got home, we did the bedtime routine. No dice. We fed him sweet potatoes, took a walk, sang songs, offered chilled teething rings, rocked, danced, and left him alone (the latter being a trick that almost always works when all else is failing). Through it all, he cried, and made the sign for "milk" over and over.

"I do not think that means what you think it means," I said to my desperate son, considering he was frantically making the sign WHILE ATTACHED to my breast.

At 11:30 PM, despite his not appearing to be in pain or particularly chewing on anything besides my nipples, we threw up our hands and gave him a shot of infant Tylenol. I snuggled him up and let him nurse from the side I'd been "reserving" for two hours just to make sure there was something there.

At 11:33 PM, I had my brilliant blog post idea. Then I looked down.

You wouldn't have reached for the notebook either.