Monday, September 29, 2008


It started yesterday morning with a raspy voice and the characteristic barking cough. Q seemed in good spirits for the most part, if a little tired. After a day spent mainly inside, we steamed up the kids' bathroom with the shower and gave her a bath in the mist. We played boats and drew jack-o-lanterns on the fogged mirrors, anything to keep her in there. We suspected she had croup and put her to bed early. She appeared fine.

Then night begins. First at 9 p.m. — then at 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. — we come to her crying in her room and fighting for air. The virus has closed much of her throat, which scares her awake, and crying makes it worse.

When I was a young, we had formaldehyde foam insulation put into our house. Formaldehyde itself is old, but its use as an insulator was new then, and it was supposed to be miraculous. Men came and drilled hundreds of holes in the siding and filled the walls with foam from a truck. Later we (and everyone else) discovered that it made us all sick, particularly my mom and me. My breathing eventually became so difficult that I was moved out of our house to a hotel room across town. Sleeping there one night on the high old bed, I remember dreaming that water came rushing under the door, slowly filling the room. I remember reminding myself in the dream to breathe.

In our small bathroom with the shower running hot (for the fourth time this night), Q struggles to cry and to breathe. The air can't come in full and fast like it should — some flap in her throat seems to snap when she tries to inhale, and her crying quickly spends whatever air she manages to draw each time. I catch myself inhaling deeper and deeper in the dark, to breathe for us both, I suppose. Q rarely gets sick and almost never cries, so the way she sounds truly unsettles my wife and me. I'm glad it's hard for Q to see our faces. The doctor will confirm that we're doing what we can and should to help her. There are no drugs to give, nothing for us to do but soothe and wait for the virus to lose.

Slowly, she calms in the steam, and her breathing returns to the regular, smoother rattle. I ask if she's ready to return to our bed, and she nods. She's loud and hot on the pillow between us for the rest of the night. I rub her back because it's all I can think of to do and because it keeps me convinced that her lungs are still working away. How do you remember to breathe? How do you do it? How do you breathe for another?

The light comes up this morning, and Q climbs out of our bed and into her old self. She makes jokes and laughs at them, bothers her brother a little, and pretty much bewilders us with her mood. We begin to hope that the next night will be better.


teahouse said...

Wow, I've never seen a case of the croup in real life. Only in Anne of Green Gables when Minnie May (Diana's little sister) had the croup and they used Ipecac. Is that still what's done?

I am glad that she's through the woods. Poor little thing...

Nadine said...

Aww, poor little girl. And poor parents! I can't imagine what that must have been like. Terrifying. I hope she's all better now!