Is it just me, or does it feel as if the commonality of asthma outweighs the severity these days? I hear it all the time — “Oh, it’s just asthma.” Just asthma, as if struggling to do something as natural and needed as breathing is something to take lightly. This person must never have had to witness the caving of a child’s chest or hear their whimpers of stomach pains as their little bodies work overtime to simply breathe. This my reality, my fear every time my daughter gets sick or the weather changes. Will her pump be enough? Will her nebulizer do the job? If she’s triggered, will we be back in the hospital for yet another stay? A weekend-long stay at the children’s hospital was our introduction to asthma, and it was something my family will never forget.
Our daughter, the baby of the family at the time, was only 2 years old when she had her first asthma attack. A tiny little thing with big hair and an even bigger personality. Before her attack, she didn’t have an asthma diagnosis, so we were completely taken off guard. She had been sick for a few days prior, just your average sniffle-meets-mild-cold kind of sick. The kind where you can see it in their eyes, and they’re a little off, but they’re still full of that infamous toddler energy. Somewhere between being her semi-normal toddler self and being sick, things made a turn for the worst. I remember her trying to talk to me, but she couldn’t. I remember lifting her shirt and seeing her chest tightening and stomach contracting. I had no idea what was happening. As I mentioned, she didn’t have an asthma diagnosis, so that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I had never seen anything like this before, and I was in a weird space of don’t freak out and FREAK OUT! As I rushed to the hospital, I contacted my husband, who was at work, to tell him what was happening.
So, there I was, every 5’2″ bit of me, rushing through the parking lot with a toddler who was struggling to breathe. I remember everyone being so calm as they took her temperature and asked me a million questions. All I could think was, Are they not seeing her chest? Why isn’t she being rushed to the back? I remember them taking her vitals and me feeling like I had stepped outside of my body while watching it all go down. I remember it being extremely cold but feeling numb to it all. I remember them giving her a breathing treatment and it not helping. Her screaming out to me as they tried to put an IV into her tiny little hand and me being an emotional wreck on the inside but trying to be calm on the outside for her. The IV was one of the hardest moments that night; finding her veins proved to be a difficult task. I remember telling the nurses, “No more!” No more tries, no more pokes and pricks, as they told me she needed it to save her life. Then there was a sweet older nurse who came in and spoke softly, her tone very calming. My sweet baby girl laid in my arms still unable to breathe normally and was now struggling even more because she was so upset. The nurse asked to try one last time. I agreed. Without a single teardrop the nurse slid the IV needle in effortlessly. I remember feeling relieved and thinking that this lady was Heaven-sent, my angel on earth. Right at my breaking point, she stepped in and brought a sense of calm over the entire room. I remember my sister and brother-in-law showing up, which was comforting. I remember my husband finally being able to make it to the emergency room.
Our daughter’s X-ray result came back, and they told us she had pneumonia and was being transferred to Wolfson Children’s Hospital. This is where things got extremely scary. I remember seeing her small little body on the stretcher being loaded into the back of the ambulance, the sirens and lights as we dashed through the streets of Duval in the middle of the night. Everyone was headed home after work or maybe out to dinner with friends, and there we were, dodging them all while trying to save my little girl’s life. Wolfson Children’s Hospital was amazing; they immediately got her hooked up and comfortable. They ran tests, answered questions, and put all our fears to rest. Turns out that our daughter didn’t have pneumonia — therefore, I’m team second opinion to this day. Our baby was going to be okay. I remember my daughter being extremely hungry and everything being closed, but her nurse made sure to find something to offer her. They only had cereal available, perfect for a hungry toddler. I also remember her being so jittery that her tiny little hand shook nonstop as she tried to feed herself. The weekend-long stay was the longest few days ever, but the staff was so helpful and kind. I remember her laying in her hospital crib in her tiny little hospital gown. One of my best friends bringing her a goodie bag filled with activities to keep her entertained during her stay. I remember her bouncing off the wall and not knowing the effects of a good old liquid steroid at the time, trying to figure out why she wouldn’t just sit down. That moment, we look back on and laugh. I remember her finally being able to get out bed and her riding a toy car around in circles on the hospital floor.
I remember her enjoying the playroom still jittery, as my tiny little 2-year-old slowly but surely returned to herself — she could breathe again. Yep, I remember it all, and that was the beginning of our asthma journey. There are so many stories like mine, so many moms who remember just like me. Some stories are less dramatic, some more tragic, but either way, having an asthmatic child is scary. There are currently about 6.2 million children with asthma under the age of 18. It is one of the top reasons kids miss school. So yes, it is common, but that doesn’t make it any less serious.