Growing up with asthma: chapter 4
I sat on the edge of the ER cot with my fingernails pressed deep into the edge of the narrow mattress. My shoulders were high and stiff. Breathing was very difficult now.
The nurse, the lady with the white uniform and funny hat, left the room and said, "I'll be right back with doctor Gadget."
That minute quickly turned into a long time. It probably was only a minute, but when you can't breath, a minute is a long time.
A skinny dark haired man wearing what looked like wrinkled green pajamas entered the room carrying a white bag. I watched as he ripped the bag open, turned and scattered the contents onto the counter. I knew now I was going to feel better soon.
He seemed to be taking a long time. I could hear the clicks and clacks as he put his gadgets together.
Where is the needle? I thought. What's this thing he's working on?
My heart skipped a beat as the nurse brushed her way past him, walked around the bed, and stood behind me and rubbed my shoulders. I know she told me her name earlier, but I couldn't remember.
"Try to relax your shoulders, honey," she said.
Her gentle, caring fingers pressed deep into my sore shoulder muscles, and I let my shoulders droop. Easier said than done. I've been trying to relax all night. It was no use. I tensed up. If I could relax my shoulders I wouldn't be here.
She ran her finger along my spine. I let my shoulders droop again. Concentrate. Pretend you are a wet noodle. Go limp. Relax. The words I read in the "Asthma for Kids" book rang out loud in my head. "Breathe in through you mouth and out your nose," she said.
I hated when they said that. I couldn't breath through my nose. I couldn't breath through my nose on a good day. I tried. I sniffed. My nose was full. I wiped it with my arm. I looked at my dad, and he didn't say anything. I looked down at my arm and saw the little streak of snot.
Despite that I couldn't breathe through my nose, I could still smell that clean, fresh hospital smell.
"How long has he been feeling like this?" the doctor said. He was about dad's age, with a big fluffy mustache, and he was standing in front of me pressing his fingers into my neck.
"He woke us up a half 'n hour ago." Dad was sitting in a wood chair by the door. "He was fine before he went to bed."
I thought about how miserable I was at grandmas, and my heart skipped a beat when I thought about how I had decided I was going to tell mom and dad how terrible I felt when we got in the car, but I never did. Dad really doesn't understand. He has no clue. That was the first time I came to that revelation.
"Was he around something he was allergic to?" The doctor asked, and dad shrugged, "Not that I know."
I tried to speak: "I was," gasp, "going to te...," gasp, "tell you last," gasp, "you that--
"Don't try to speak, Rick." The doctor was now poking something into my ear, then he shone a light into my eye. I did not wince. I was a pro at this. I heard air hissing, and noticed the skinny dark haired man was holding something that was steaming.
"Here, hold this," the skinny man said, and he proffered to me that thing that was making steam. It looked like a little cup with a white mouth piece on one end and a white tubing on the other. I had never seen anything like this before. I grasped it in my little hand and stared at it. What am I supposed to do with this? I don't want this. I want that shot. The shot always makes me feel better. "This should make you feel better."
The doctor walked around the bed, and I tried to take as deep a breaths as I could as he listened to me with his stethoscope. I looked at dad and he looked worried. I didn't ever remember seeing him look that way before. Through the doorway I could see the nurses station, but nobody was out there. As far as I knew I was the only patient, which meant that I got all the attention. I didn't' like all these people in the room. I could feel my heart racing.
"My name is Matt, and I'm from respiratory therapy" the skinny man said, "What I want you to do is put this into your mouth, and clench it between your teeth. You can hold it with your hand if you want. I want you to breath normal."
I did what he said. I concentrated on my breathing. I saw everyone was watching me. That made me more nervous than being short-of-breath. I had been short of breath before and I could handle that, but all the attention was new to me.
I watched as the steam disappeared when I inhaled and blew out of the end of the white corrugated pipe when I exhaled. My breaths were short and not very deep, so the steam never completely disappeared before I exhaled again. It was kind of like puff-puff-puff-puff.
"This is what we call a nebulizer. It has medicine in it that should help you breath," he said. "I want you to really concentrate on your breathing."
.The doctor walked around the bed. The man who gave me this neb-you-lizer slid his feet across the floor and moved to the back of the bed. The doctor motioned for me to lie down and he pressed his fingers into my stomach with his gentle hands. As soon as he was done I popped back up to a sitting position. "This should work," he said to my dad more so than to me.
Nobody left the room. They all stared at me as I continued to struggle despite the neb-you-lizer thing. I kept waiting for the relief. The relief never came.
"Give him another one," the doctor said. He patted me on the back. "We'll have you better in no time," he tried to reassure me. I knew this neb-you-lizer wasn't going to work.
I could hear my heart going rap-rap-rap-rap in my head.
The nebulizer started to make a sputtering noise, and the steam was no longer pouring out when I exhaled. Matt from respiratory therapy took the nebulizer from me and walked over to the counter. He reached toward the wall and turned a knob on a flowmeter. The hissing stopped.
He picked up a syringe and a bottle and drew up some of the medicine. He squirted it into the cup. He held up the syringe, eyed it, and squirted some of the liquid into the air. He put the syringe into a second bottle, and squirted that into the cup too. All the while he did this the nurse continued to rub my shoulders and back, occasionally reminding me to "relax, honey. Try to relax your shoulders. Just concentrate on your breathing."
I relaxed my shoulders when I thought of it.
Take a slow breath in, breath out slow. Take a slow breath in, breathe out slow. The words from the asthma book resonated in my head. Take a slow breath in, breathe out slow.
I took a breath in, it wasn't very deep. I blew it out slowly. I repeated this again and again.
"He's pretty calm for someone who can't breath," the nurse said.
I looked at dad. He didn't say anything. He just sat in his chair all relaxed.
I watched as Matt turned the flowmeter on. The air hissed continuously again. The steam was pouring from the neb. He handed it to me. I took it. I clasped it between my teeth, and pressed my palms into the mattress.
"Try to relax." The nurse continued massaging my shoulders. I relaxed as best I could.
"What is this... steam?" I gasped through the mouthpiece.
"It's not steam," Matt said, "It's a mist. You ever go to a waterfall?"
"It's kind of like the moisture that squirts up from the waterfall. It's a mist. What I have in this cup is what I call a magic mist. It usually works fast."
"Not working... fast on me," I assured him.
He turned to look at my dad. "What I have in here is a medicine called Alupent."
"Yeah, he's had these before," dad said.
"I want," breath, "the shot." I didn't care about this thing they made me put in my mouth. My jaw was getting sore.
The doctor looked at my dad, and dad looked back at the doctor as though waiting for the doctor to say something, but the doctor said nothing. The were content to wait, I figured.
"I want the shot!" I said.
"I never heard a kid ask for a shot before," the doctor said. He smiled.
Dad said, "He has responded very well to Susprin in the past. That's what they usually give him when he comes here."
"Oh, really." The doctor listened to me again with his stethoscope. I could hear myself wheezing. I could feel each breath as it didn't want to go in. There was an elephant sitting on my chest. That's the same as I felt since the last time I woke up. I feel worse than I felt last night at grandmas, I decided. Nobody asked me about last night. How could they not ask me? I'm glad, because I don't want them to know.
"All right," the doctor said after what seemed to me to be an eternity. Martha, why don't you prepare 5 of Susprin."
The nurse stopped massaging my back and left the room. I watched as she walked around the nurses station, went out of sight a moment, and then she appeared out of nowhere and re-entered the room with a syringe and a wad of white gauze. I looked at the needle as she held it up to the light and squirted some of the fluid out. It was huge and sharp. I didn't care.
The doctor stepped back and stood next to the chair dad was sitting in. The nurse opened the bottle of alcohol and put the gauze over the opening. The smell of alcohol was strong. That was
The smell of a shot. She rolled up my sleeve and rubbed the cool alcohol onto my shoulder.
"Poke," she said. I could feel the needle as it entered my skin, but I did not jerk this time. I could feel the sting as the medicine entered me. I concentrated on my breathing. I knew it was just a matter of time now. I rush of joy filled my veins. I knew I was going to feel better real soon. It was like a Christmas gift. It was better than a Christmas gift.
"Relax and just concentrate on your breathing," the doctor said. You don't need to tell me that, doc. This is what I wanted all along. Oh, it feels so good.
The nurse was rubbing my shoulders again. I liked it when she did that, but I don't know that it was doing much good. "Breathe slow in through your nose and out your mouth," she said.
I didn't listen to her. I knew what I had to do. I breathed slowly in through my mouth and out my mouth. I felt how hard the air was going in. I felt the agony of each breath. I concentrated on how miserable I was. I wanted to savor the moment, because I knew what was going to happen in...
"It usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes," the doctor said looking down at my dad "Do you feel better yet." He looked at me.
"No." I gasped. I knew it wouldn't be long. I watched the clock on the wall. I don't remember it being there before. It was right over the doctors head. It was so quiet in the room now I could hear it ticking. All eyes were on me.
It was now the five minute mark. I could feel the breath go in half way. It felt so good.
I watched the clock, listened to it tick. Time seemed to go so slow as I watched, waited for my breath to come back. It was now ten minutes since I got the shot. Air was now going in three-quarters of the way.
"This is feeling much better." I smiled.
"Good," the doctor said. "Just concentrate on your breathing."
I continued watching the clock, and concentrated on my breathing. After a few more ticks I took in a deeeeeep breath. It went in all the way.
I took in another deeeeep breath.
Yes! It felt so good to breath. I took in several more deep breaths.
"It sure is a great medicine, isn't it?" Mike said, smiling. I looked at dad. He was smiling too.
I took another deep breath. "Yep, I can breathe."
I released my grip on the cot.
"Ahhhhhhh, it's a miracle."