For as long as I can remember I’ve been asthmatic. I can recall my mum bringing the nebulising machine to me at school, and sitting in the dark on her lap in the early hours of the morning sucking in breaths of the salty vapor that is Ventolin.
At the age of thirty I’m still medicated for it, and there’s been plenty of childhood asthma through both mine and The Husbands families. It’s no small surprise to find that my Cheeky Monkey has had his fair share of allergy issues- eczema, food allergies and bronchiolotis.
In the last six months however, with every cold and runny nose he has had significant respiratory distress and we’ve had countless trips to the emergency department. Owing to his young age, he isn’t officially diagnosed but is ‘pre-asthmatic’ and on preventer medications.
I have worked as a respiratory nurse for ten years, and I know asthma, shortness of breath, wheeze and work of breathing like the back of my hand. Nothing prepared me for the struggle of supporting my baby through each of these episodes though.
The change is drastic. Within 24hrs he goes from manic energetic excitable boy to needing inhalers every 20-30mins, who doesn’t have enough breath to walk so just sits slumped on my lap, grunting with each breath that passes his lips.
The following 24hours is generally a haze of inhalers, steroids and doing anything to provide comfort and distraction. There is always one night of almost zero sleep. This week it was Friday, and it was horrific.
Cheeky Monkey just couldn’t settle, he was agitated from the steroids but exhausted from the work of breathing and fighting the mask needed for the inhalers. He dozed ten minutes at a time only, and was distressed and upset whenever he woke but didn’t want to be held or cuddled, and didn’t want to be put down. We finally hopped in the car at 4:30am and he fell asleep in seconds. I managed maybe 45minutes sleep on the back seat, parked in the garage.
We finally started the day at 6:30am with a higher dose of steroids and then regular inhalers through the day, stretching the gaps by 30mins each time. Today is Monday and he’s totally back to normal, finished his course of steroids and inhalers- for now anyway.
I’m so lucky that I have medical professionals who trust me to direct his care from home, without having to seek medical treatment each time, and who make themselves available at the drop of a hat if needed. But I keep thinking to my own parents, and those who don’t have the knowledge, skills and resources I have access too. It would be terrifying, seeing your baby struggling for each breath and not knowing what to do.
I had an email from Asthma Australia this week, advising that Asthmatic families are eligible for free After Hours Plus membership with 13SICK. They provide education, access to resources, medications including inhalers and next-day GP appointments. It’s such a fantastic service, and gives so much peace of mind.
Have a look at the Asthma Australia App for access to educational resources, and contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask about the special 13SICK offer.
Asthma definitely sucks balls, but being educated and aware makes it all just a little more manageable.