The Emergency Room

the emergency room

It was the coughing that brought me back from the edge of a dream. “Hush, hush little one,” I said softly. Selfishly wishing my two year old back to sleep so that I could return to my own.

But the coughs didn’t subside. They became hoarser and louder.  And then I heard the panic in my baby boy’s cries as he struggled to catch his breath between dry coughs. 

I held him to me. Helplessly patting his back as my husband woke and joined us. “He can’t breathe properly.” I was becoming wild with quiet panic. We took our little one outside, hoping the night air might help.

We were camping over the Australia Day weekend. My mind reeled back to earlier that day. We had been swimming in the lake, stained brown by tea-tree leaves. The colour of a strong black brew. The kids had been playing on inflatables and body-boards. The toddler’s board had tipped and for two horrifying seconds he went under the water.  My husband scooped him up in one fluid motion. Before I even registered what had happened, he had our son in his arms. Slightly stunned but otherwise fine. My boy didn’t even cough.

But I couldn’t help wonder if this was some kind of secondary drowning.

Our friend came out of her camper-van, woken by the barking coughs. She suggested it was croup, her own children having suffered from it. The coughs weren’t subsisding and our panic was rising. We decided to head to the local ER.

I sat on the back seat of the car with my youngest child, hand on his chest, willing it to fall and rise. Wishing the coughing would stop. Terrified when it did. My ear close to his face so that I could catch his raspy breath.

We arrived at the ER and hesitated for a moment. We had only ever been to an ER once. We did not leave with our son. Our middle child’s last day on earth was spent within the walls of the ER and NICU. Of course this story would end differently but our heart and foot steps dragged as we buzzed for entry.

We were ushered into the room quickly. The nurse diagnosed croup straight away and prepared the steroid injection. The doctor come over and quickly dismissed the possibility of secondary drowning. Relief — we would leave with our baby boy.

In the four-bed ER we were in the company of an older family, the father having fallen off something and broken his ribs. An accident that may have been fuelled by too much Australia Day merriment.  The questions the tween aged boys asked indicated it wasn’t the first time Dad had done this. It distracted us from where we were.

We caught each other’s eye and grasped each other’s hands but niether of us admitted how hard it was to be there. Amongst the flashing lights, too white beds and life-saving apparatus. How many memories came flashing back? The distance the years had placed between ourselves and unthinkable tragedy shrank in a matter of seconds.

We held our youngest son between us, his breathing returning to normal. We were desperate to be discharged. Away from a place that reminded of us our worst nightmare.

Eventually the cheery nurse gave us a second dose of steroids to administer the next day and bid us good night. I sat in the back of the car again, my baby boy fast asleep and breathing normally. My own racing heart returning to its normal rhythm.

I fell into bed. But when I look around my husband wasn’t there.

He was on the floor, beside our toddler’s stretcher bed. It was impossible to sleep there and I beckon him back to bed. He shook his head. He held our sleeping son’s hand tight and whispered “I’ve got you, I’ve got you.”
Arrow 2

46 thoughts on “The Emergency Room

  1. Emily M Morgan says:

    Oh dear, you had me in tears. I’ve had several night trips to the ER with my oldest girl whose every cold went straight to her chest and had her struggling for breath. Once, an unobservant triage nurse had us waiting for so long that my daughter’s breathing started to be seriously compromised and I had to shout and yell to get seen. We were apologized to by the doctors for the nurse’s failure to prioritise her as she should have done that time round, but it didn’t lessen the panic I had felt at the time.

    I’m so sorry to hear of your past tragedy. No wonder hospitals hold conflicting feelings for you. Thank goodness that we do have ERs and good medicine today to help with so many of our babies’ illnesses. Small comfort, I know.

    Found you on #IBOT and glad I did. What a great style you have, great blog!

  2. Michelle says:

    Croup is awful, and so scary the first time. Rory’s first attack was at 3 months and we needed the ambulance. I feared for him, but there weren’t any terrible memories to fight through as well. So glad it was something simple and that you guys all got back to your holiday together and fairly quickly.
    Hugs to you and N. And the boys too xx
    Michelle recently posted…Depression is a LYING SCUMBAG.My Profile

    • Robyna says:

      It’s just such a terrifying thing — watching your baby unable to catch their breath. Thank goodness those steroids work so well and so quickly.

  3. Michaela Fox says:

    How frightening for you, enhanced by your horrible memory. Those memories soften but never truly recede :-(.
    I felt like I was right there with you, and indeed I was. We were down at my parents beach house over the Easter weekend when my 5yo awoke in the night with the same symptoms. Croup. To the ER we went, the first time for us as parents. The almost comical side to this story is that my dad had been taken to ER only an hour earlier. They really should have timed that better!! Fortunately both patients were OK. xx
    Michaela Fox recently posted…How to make a Kit Kat CakeMy Profile

  4. Nikki@Wonderfully Women says:

    I can’t even come close to imagining how hard that must have been to walk in there again. Thankfully it was just croup making you walk through those doors. The first time my daughter had croup I rushed her to the ER thinking she had whooping cough, felt a bit silly for panicking. xx N

  5. Denyse says:

    Oh my …this was read with my heart in my mouth. I have never had to do the ER rush with our (now grown) kids nor have they with their kids. Croup is awful and I know that our GS was affected but fortunately the steroids helped after a visit to the doctor. Your family has suffered much. I hope no more and that all is well now and into the future. Thank you for sharing. Denyse xx

  6. Monique Doy says:

    Oh my Robyna, You made me want to go and wake up my baby and give her a hug, definitely shed a few tears reading this. Is parenting the hardest thing ever, or what?! Beautifully written, you have a gift x

  7. Carolyn says:

    Heartbreaking memories for you to contend with, Robyna. Croup is awful. Had to call the ambulance when our daughter was little. So scary seeing them not able to breathe – and I remember the fear in her little eyes too.

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