I remember it like it just happened. I was at work and I got a call from my wife. She asked me to listen to our 3-year old daughter breathing, as my wife said she sounded a little labored. She put the phone down to her and I could hear the steady, quick wheeze and crackling effects of congestion and fluid that comes with an asthma attack. I told my wife to call the pediatrician immediately.
Within 20 minutes she called me back and said she was taking her to the hospital per the doc’s instructions. I clocked out and met her there. Dr. Lassetter had our daughter set up in a room in ICU with a IV of meds, fluids, and oxygen up her nose. Despite the absolute panic of the situation our little girl was in good spirits. Even though she was in dire straits, she was still able to point out the “large” nurse that had attended to us for a bit. Not in a mean way, but the way a three-year old can be painfully, embarrassingly honest sometimes. There were visits from sets of grandparents throughout the day, one of which brought our little girl a stuffed animal that was a German Shepherd. It was as big as she was. In fact it dwarfed her in her surgical blue hospital bed.
By late afternoon Dr. Lassetter came in to check on our daughter. He’d decided that she could go home with us as opposed to being admitted for the weekend, but on one condition: she gets breathing treatments every four hours the whole weekend. He’d said there was no wiggle room with that, because if she didn’t she could backslide.
So around 6pm that Friday night we left with our sick little girl. My wife took her to McDonalds for some chicken mcnuggets to bring home while I went to CVS and filled her prescription for the Pulmicort respules that she’d be breathing in every four hours on the nose. The weekend was low key with plenty of Dora The Explorer, Jell-O, and lots of breathing treatments. By Sunday night her breathing had improved and had transitioned into a loose, chunky cough the old timers like to call “productive”. Crisis averted, for the moment.
Because we weren’t sure how or why this had happened the doc set us up with an allergist in Ft. Wayne so our daughter could get tested for allergies. The visit was fruitful, as we found out our three-year old was deathly allergic to cats and pretty much anything fuzzy and adorable that little girls love the most. An open prescription for Pulmicort respules and inhalers for the time being.
There were a few close calls the next few years or so; someone brought a kitty in for show and tell at preschool, a sleepover with a cat hair-covered sleeping bag, and the occasional surprise bronchial spasm out of nowhere just to keep us on our toes.
I’d tell her crazy things to keep her mind occupied from the frightening aspect of the situation. I’d make up weird bedtime stories about two sisters and their adventures, or I’d do a puppet show with stuffed animals and actual puppets(we had a couple cool marionettes.) I’d even told her that just her and I would take an airplane ride together. We could fly over the house and she could wave to her mom, older sister, and baby brother. That was something she’d remind me of a lot, and still brings it up to this day.
But overall our three-year old grew up and somewhat out of the dangerous allergies. The older she got she knew when something was bothering her so she could take precautions, unlike a three-year old that doesn’t really know what the hell is happening to her.
My three-year old turned 18 a couple weeks ago, and tonight she graduates high school. She’ll get her diploma, work over the summer, then head to Ferris State University in August and work on the rest of her life. I was always very protective of her. I was protective of all my children, but especially of her because of the asthma. I might have been overbearing at times; paranoid, bull-headed, and no fun as well. But seeing your three-year old lying in a ICU hospital bed with IVs and oxygen going up her nose can turn you into a no-fun, overprotective household dictator.
Fortunately she got thru it, both me and the allergies. And though she’s 18 and incredibly independent and smart and resourceful and thoughtful and caring, I’ll always see that little girl. The painfully honest little kid in the flower dress who pointed out how large the nurse was. Or the little girl who’s favorite toy was a cash register and an oversized stuffed animal. Or the little girl who’s still waiting on that plane ride with her dad.
Someday. I promise.