Tuesday, December 16, 2008


It all started on Wednesday. I got a call from the school secretary telling me that A. Peevie was having trouble breathing. "I can't catch my breath, Mommy," he said when she put him on the phone. "It's hard for me to get air into my lungs." Well, that didn't sound good, so I called the doctor on the way to school, and she said to bring him in.

"I can tell even without the stethoscope that he's wheezing," she said. "It's bronchial spasms." Asthma. She prescribed an inhaler and a steroid to help clear him up, and we went on our way, with yet another diagnosis. This kid collects diagnoses like they're baseball cards.

The next day A. Peevie inhaled his albuterol at 8 a.m., and didn't need it again until more than 12 hours later. Then around 10 p.m. he started asking for another puff.

"You can't have your medicine again until midnight," I told him. I could tell he was tired, and I urged him to try to go to sleep.

"No, mom, I really need to take the medicine again," A. Peevie insisted. "It's hard for me to get a whole breath into my lungs." To demonstrate, he tipped his head down and dramatically sucked air, inflating himself upright like an air mattress. I wasn't convinced--not that I thought he was lying or exaggerating, but that perhaps his anxiety was making it worse than it really was.

"A.," I said, "I can't give you your medicine. We have to wait four hours. You have two hours to go. If you really need it sooner, I have to call the doctor first."

"Call the doctor," he instructed. "I need the medicine." Sheesh. Kids these days. A little airway constriction and they're all "Oh, call the doctor! I need medicine! I can't breathe!" Babies.

So I called the doctor, and she said we had to go to the ER. "I really don't think he's that bad off," I said, trying to talk her into a different course of treatment. "Can't I just give him another dose and see how he does?"

No, she said. If he really needs the inhaler again so soon after taking his last dose, then he needs to be checked out at the ER. A. Peevie burst into tears when he heard this news. He cried as he put his pants on, he cried as he hugged his daddy goodbye, like it was the last time he was going to see him.

"Do you want to just try to go to sleep, A.?" I said, making one last ditch effort to avoid a late-night trip to the hospital.

"No," he said, hiccupping--and now, with the crying, even I could tell his breathing was a bit more labored. "I need my medicine."

So Aidan packed his Gameboy DS and drawing materials into his briefcase (adorable!) and off we went to visit the ER docs at Lutheran General Hospital. Again. We've been there so often that I recognized the attending ER physician. He recognized us, too. "You've been here before, haven't you?" he asked when he saw us.

"Um, yeah," I said. "Nine or ten times."

We went through A. Peevie's complicated medical history with the resident, Dr. Dave, who looked like he was about 14 years old. I was impressed when he appeared to be familiar with the cardiac diagnoses and surgeries as I ticked them off. A. Peevie's medical history is complex and rare enough that often the interviewer asks for clarifications and definitions. Then they usually ask me if I'm in the medical field myself, because of the way I sling around the polysyllabic medical terminology. (I secretly love this--although I guess it's not a secret anymore.) I'm not, I say, but being A. Peevie's mom has certainly given me an education that I would not otherwise have had. Thanks, A.!

To make a long, anticlimactic story short, three hours, one chest X-ray, and lots of stethoscoping later, we headed home. No nebulizer treatment. No treatment at all. And the breathing? Miraculously improved.

Sometimes anticlimactic is the best way for a story to end.

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