What kids remember about asthma hospitalizations

The interesting thing about memories is that they can be soooo different – what parents remember and what kids remember can be very different.

My daughter is in high school now, and casually remarked about the last time she was hospitalized for her asthma. She said she remembers being really mad that she had to be admitted again,

My daughter (then 7) and middle son (aged 10) had pneumonia (again…. ) and were both VERY sick. We had our usual instructions from Asthma Doc:

Even with all of that, the kids were still getting worse. My middle son was hospitalized first around 3am (why do they always get worse in the middle of the night???)

My husband stayed at the hospital with our son, while I went home to take over care of our daughter. My sweet neighbor was taking care of my daughter while we were at the hospital. I got home just in time to give her another Albuterol breathing treatment. By then it was 4 am. As soon as the doctor’s office opened at 8am, I was the first one on the phone to get an appointment for my daughter.

The pediatrician listened to my daughter’s lungs, looked at the LONG list of medications she was on, and said, “Well, if she gets worse, you can bring her back tomorrow.” Without thinking, I blurted out “She won’t be here tomorrow, she’ll be admitted tonight.”

I was a little shocked to hear myself say that. I don’t know how I knew she would be admitted, I just had a feeling.

I carefully watched my daughter all day for the signs of when to go to the emergency room

She seemed to be getting worse and worse. But I knew from past experience that our hospital would only admit my kids if :

  • their oxygen level dropped to 90 or 91 (your oxygen level should be closer to 100)
  • they were coughing and wheezing and the Albuterol didn’t seem to be helping
  • their skin would  turn a pale/grey color
  • their fingernails and lips would turn a blue/purple color

When I checked her oxygen level on the oximeter again, it had dropped to 91. I called my husband at the hospital just before midnight and said, “I’m bringing our daughter down to get admitted.” He said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I told him I wasn’t kidding…..I knew she was going to be as sick as her brother because she was about a day behind him in the illness. I told him to tell our son he would be right back, but was going to meet me in the ER and his sister was going to be admitted too, We would get them set up in a room together.

Over the years, we had learned “the ropes” of having a kid in the hospital for asthma. Where the ER is located, where to park, what time the hospital cafeteria or snack bar is open, etc.  I knew I could do a few things to make this awful experience a little easier for us.

When I arrived at the ER, they whisked us back to a treatment room. I quickly listed how long she had been sick, what medications she was on, what time she had her last breathing treatment, and that her older brother had been admitted the day before. They could quickly see how sick she was, and that we had exhausted all treatment options. I felt it was time for the professionals to take over. The ER Doc said, “Yes, good idea.”

To make things easier for us, I asked ER Doc to call up to Pediatrics and move our son to a double room so he and our daughter could be in the same hospital room. (See? I told you I had learned the ropes….)

This is the only part my daughter can remember – she was mad because she has to be admitted to the hospital…..again. At least she got to spend time with her brother – until he was discharged a day later, and she was stuck there for her 7th birthday. (True story. But she did have a fabulous 1st grade teacher who brought a birthday cake to the hospital!)

Ahhh….it’s always funny to hear what kids remember vs what we go through as parents. Of course, she was only 7, so her version of life is much different from mine.

So, she knows what really happened.

This was only one of 12 hospitalizations for my kid’s asthma. And I wonder why I have so much gray hair?!

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