This Asthma Thing Is Getting Scary

Last night was our worst asthma night yet! As I've mentioned, my 6-year-old daughter Rae has had a mild cold for more than a week now, and last Wednesday she started waking up at night coughing. She was diagnosed with asthma when she was four, but she hasn't had any symptoms since then. She had never even had an official "asthma attack," nor had she ever taken Albuterol or had a breathing treatment. All that has changed. We now have an Asthmatic Child. It's something we're just going to have to accept.

Rae has been on Albuterol every 4-6 hours for two days now, and I thought she was finally getting better. Last night I even planned to sleep in my own bed (instead of hers) for the first time in a week. I gave her the Albuterol right before bed, and I did the math in my head for when she was due for another treatment. But Rae woke up less than three hours later with a violent coughing fit. She couldn't catch her breath, and she said she thought she might throw up she was coughing so hard. I had to give her the Albuterol early, then I called the nurse on call. The nurse told me I should not have to give her the Albuterol more often than every four hours, and if she wakes up again to call right away because she may need to go to the ER.

I was terrified! After a week of no sleep, I finally started to fall apart. My body was shaking, and my mind was racing. The worst thoughts started popping into my head: she has lung cancer; she needs a lung transplant; she... I can't even write some of the thoughts I had!

I knew that in order to take the best care of her, I HAD to get some sleep. But the sleep just wouldn't come. My mind would not leave me alone. I lay in bed the entire night, wide awake, listening to her breathe and praying that she didn't wake up for the next four hours. If we could make it to four hours, I knew I wouldn't have to call the nurse and take her to the emergency room.

Sure enough, at four hours to the minute, she woke up coughing. I ran in there and gave her the Albuterol, thinking I could finally get some sleep until morning when I could take her back to the doc. (It was now about 4 a.m.) No such luck. My mind continued to race for the rest of the night, flitting from one terrible scenario to another. My daughter's lungs were shutting down. We were doomed to a life of doctors and hospitals. Our peaceful, carefree life as we knew it was over.

As soon as the sun came up, I took Rae to the doctor. Thankfully, we got the best doctor in the practice: Dr. Scott. He listened to my story, listened to her chest, and told her that Rae needed Prednisone (a steroid). Apparently, asthma is actually two things happening in the lungs -- constriction and inflammation -- and Albuterol only treats the constriction. The poor girl's airways were still so inflamed she couldn't breathe! So he gave her a prescription for Prednisone, told us to stop the ridiculous antibiotics, and said we should see a major difference in a day or so.

I am still a wreck, mostly because I haven't slept. I think if I could get some rest I could view this whole ordeal in a more rational way. As it stands now, I can't even think about it without crying! But I'm trying to keep it together and praying that we have a better night tonight. The Prednisone may not be in full effect yet, so we may have another round of coughing fits, but hopefully tonight will be the last of it. Dr. Scott said that if Rae continues to have asthma symptoms he will put her on an inhaled steroid such as Advair. But for now, we're hoping it was just this cold that threw her lungs for a loop. And from now on, we'll have to remember that our child has asthma and to always have Albuterol on hand in case of emergencies.

Who knew?? We have absolutely no history of asthma in our family. It will take a while to accept this new turn of events. Why us? We have always been so healthy! I won't wallow in self pity. Things could certainly be much worse.

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