meditations on bronchiolitis

So, Curious J is sick … again. She’s had a mild cold all week with a nagging cough, but yesterday afternoon after her nap, she woke up wheezing horribly, the worst I’d heard in a long time. She sat on her couch watching Baby Einstein, puffing as if she had just finished a race.  It frightened me and made me very edgy, but I got out my nebulizer and some old medication, and started her on that.  We made it through the night last night, and we visited the doctor’s this morning.  He prescribed for her not only a stronger bronchio-dilating inhaled medication than the stuff I had on hand, but an anti-inflammatory inhaled medication as well.  My nebulizer has been put to good use over the last 24 hours!  Besides that, she’s on an oral steroid.  We go back to the doctor tomorrow morning for a follow-up visit to make sure everything is working.  I can tell that the medication is making a difference, although she’s not out of the woods yet.  She still works hard for her breath, but I can see that it’s getting easier.

Even though I now know what “this” (bronchiolitis) is, it’s still scary for me to see her in this condition.  I am forever grateful to live at a time in history when there is good medical care to help my baby.  One hundred years ago, a baby like Curious J probably would not have made it this far in her life.  Curious J was hospitalized when she was six weeks old with bronchiolitis and practically every cold she’s had since then has ended with a recurrrence of bronchiolitis – if she hadn’t had good care, she might not have survived all these episodes.  Today, there’s treatments for her breathing difficulties, as well as a reasonable chance that she will outgrow all of these problems, and the fact that she can live to outgrow them at all is a miracle, in my estimation.

Thankfully, my fearless little baby is also fearless about not being able to breathe. She doesn’t panic at how hard she has to work to get air into her lungs. She still babbles and laughs and cries and plays and whines the same as before. It’s just … harder for her to do it.  But she’s not scared.

I marvel at her bravery.  When I was younger, I used to get this “stitch” around my lungs every now and then, and it would constrict my breathing for 30-60 seconds. I would only be able to take shallow breaths, and it would always frighten me badly, even though it always went away fairly quickly. I don’t know what caused them or why I don’t get them anymore. But I remember the feeling of not being able to breathe fully, and it was terrifying.

Curious J is not scared. She continues to be scared of nothing. I admire that so much about her, because I am not like that at all.  I am amazed that I could have grown such a person in my own body, especially a person who is so different than me.  It will be interesting to see how that fearlessness plays out as she grows up.  She is a determined little girl, and it shows up in all sorts of ways, ways that I marvel at, and ways that make me extremely frustrated.  But she is who she is, and I am doing my best to love her just the way she is and celebrate her uniqueness, while trying to figure out best how to parent her and guide her into adulthood.

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When Curious J has a bronchiolitis episode, crying makes her breathing even worse.  Her crying ends up intermingledwith coughing, and crying spells often end up in severe gagging.  So, we work extra hard during these times to minimize her crying.  We give her what she wants pretty quickly (or work extra hard at distracting her), simply because her lungs have enough to do without having to cry.  She will need to learn tough lessons someday, but a day when she can’t breathe well is not that day.

My efforts to minimize her crying last night meant that I was up quite a while trying to lure her back to sleep.  Lyd and Curious J both woke up in tears around 12:30.  JJ decided to go in to Lyd’s room and sleep with her so that she would have someone close by during the night if she needed something.  (Lyd doesn’t get sick.  I honestly can’t remember the last time she had a real cold.  She never even gets the sniffles or anything like that.  She’s a super-healthy kid.  So, for her, having this cold is an entirely new experience!  She stayed home from school today, and she told me numerous times (as she grabbed tissues from her her tissue box again and again), “I don’t like being sick!”)  Curious J is pretty attached to me, especially in the middle of the night, and she would not have tolerated her father when she really wanted her mother.  So, it made sense for JJ to take care of Lyd, and for me to take care of the baby.

So when Curious J woke up last night, I first did a breathing treatment with her, as she desperately needed one.  Then I nursed her, which is our normal middle-of-the-night routine (yes, it’s been 14 months of me waking up at least once a night with her.  I don’t mind the nursing; I do mind the waking up.  But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)  I put her back down in her crib and left the room, also our normal post-nursing middle-of-the-night routine, and hoped she would go back to sleep.  But nope.  She instantly stood up and started wailing, as she watched me leave the room.

Since I didn’t want her expending her limited breath in crying, I worked hard to comfort her and try to get her to sleep.  We rocked and sang.  I laid her in her crib, patted her back, and sang some more (in case you’re interested, this time of year I sing Christmas hymns).  I tried bringing her into bed with me, cuddling and singing to her as we snuggled.  (I don’t know why she won’t sleep with me.  Once she was past a month old, she wouldn’t sleep with me anymore.  Lyd still will sleep with me, even sleep in my arms when she has the opportunity, but if J is next to me, all she wants to do is play.)  All of these worked for a while, but nothing actually put her to sleep.  Finally around 2am, I tried putting her in crib again, but this time I gave her a book.  The room was dark, except for some light from the almost-full moon sneaking through the blinds.  But apparently, it was enough light for her to see the book by, or she was finally tired enough to sleep, because I didn’t hear from her again until morning.  I was very grateful that we were all able to get some sleep.

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I have a funny story from last night.  As Curious J and I were doing her breathing treatment in the middle of the night, I read her a board book, as I usually do.  Reading a book helps her to sit still and focus on something else while she’s breathing in her medication.  The last few days I’ve been reading (over and over!) the Sandra Boynton book “Hippos Go Berserk!” which she loves.  Last night, I was reading it to her as normal, when J started “talking.”  While she babbles a lot, this was different.  It didn’t sound like any babbling I’d heard from her before, and she was talking very seriously and with inflection, just as if she were reading the book herself.  She also used different consonant and vowel sounds than what she normally uses when she babbles.  She even turned the pages as she chattered away.  It was really cute to see her “reading” the book herself.

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2 thoughts on “meditations on bronchiolitis

  1. I have been curious to know why even though you eschew most Western Medicine you do not seem bothered by using steroids – other than the fact that she direly needs them of course! Just a curiosity, seeing as how I similarly (yet certainly not as worthily!) have an excuse in using Western Medicine myself…

  2. Yeah, I guess giving J steroids (oral Prednisone) is just part of the package for her when she gets so sick like this. No, I don’t like it, but I’m thankful to have them available at a time like this.

    Don’t think I’m giving up on homeopathy, however. Oh, no. I have some interesting homeopathic stories to tell from both J and myself recently, and I’m just taking my time sharing them… 😉

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