Tuesday was the scariest day of my life. Several times over.
Minion was sniffly on Monday night, snorting and squirming endlessly. “Rhinorrhea,” an EMT would later tell me in an ambulance as we sped down the freeway. “That’s the medical term for a runny nose.” The baby wouldn’t let me put him down without howling, so I spent most of the night sitting upright. Coaxing him to nurse with one arm, trying to keep myself alert by browsing Facebook with the other. The usual mom-baby shuffle.
Someone had shared a news reports about the measles going around our area. I scanned quickly, as I often do…and then stopped in the middle of the page. Outlets have been posting the known visited locations of confirmed measles patients and there it was, in black and glowing cell-screen white: the barbecue place we’d been to a week before. The patient had watched the football game there at the exact same time as us. Why did I have a sudden craving for ribs from THAT place on THAT day? Nate assured me I was overreacting. Minion had a cold. No big deal. I wasn’t convinced.
The next morning was worse. Spluttering, wheezing. I sent the older boys to play on their tricycles. Peering out through the window and juggling my 15-pound 7-week-old as he screamed in desperation, I squawked into the receiver. “What form? He’s not covered under our insurance?” The doctor wouldn’t see him. Parenthood sometimes seems like an endless stream of paperwork, most of which I fail to fill out on time.
As I hung up, the house drew quiet. Too quiet. No laughing outside, no squeaky tricycle wheels. I bolted back to my position at the window to see 2-year-old Sidekick kneeling at the side of the pool, peering in to his reflection. Some Boy guiltily manned the pool gate, his eyes shifting side-to-side.
It was me who broke the silence with a screech, a door-slam, steps pounding on the pavement.
Hustling the boys into their room, I cursed at myself and once again put the phone to my ear. “What is the point of a pool gate if the LOCK ISN’T ON IT? Ten more seconds, Nate, our child could have been in the water. He could have been dead.” I was mad at him. I was mad at me. Seething anger masking a deep, indescribable terror. I blubbered through tears, demanding him home. I didn’t trust my own capacity to keep the kids safe on such little sleep. Not that Nate hadn’t been up right beside me most of the night. I figured our combined efforts could at least see our family through the day intact.
With the big boys under dad’s watchful eye and the little one snortling away in his bassinet, I tried to grapple with human resources on the phone. I had it nearly sorted out when the preschooler bolted through the front door, demanding that I take off his wet gloves. I paused a minute, waiting for Nate to follow after him and take care of it. “Dada ni ni,” he volunteered. “Dada is ni ni sleeping on the bed.”
I bolted into our bedroom to find Nate flopped perpendicular on the bed, face-down, mouth agape in a deep snore. Through the window past his head I saw Sidekick, crouched low with his body pushed full-force against the metal gate separating our property from the street. I violently shook Nate and bolted out the back door.
“Oh you have GOT to be kidding me! Is there any possible way I can just get a half-second of a break today?”
I barricaded everyone in the living room to watch GLEE until bedtime. Minion’s breathing became progressively more labored and I kept taking him into a steamy shower until it became obvious that wasn’t cutting it. Things went from not great to bad to awful in the matter of an hour. I called Oma over and she took a quick look before confirming that we should head over to the emergency room.
Nate drove fast on the freeway. I bounced around in the back and strained to hear the sound of air moving through Minion’s lungs. The briefest pauses felt like an eternity until we came skidding into the roundabout. He didn’t move as I jolted him from his carseat, screaming at the straps in front of a bewildered-looking white-haired lady who happened to be directly in between me and the door. I flung him over my shoulder, grabbed a swaddle to serve as a foreign germ barricade, and dashed in front of an extensive line. “My baby,” I yelled belligerently at the nearest person in scrubs. “He’s having difficulty breathing!”
She calmly turned, nodding, and rapidly swiped her keycard to usher me through a set of doors where a tall man stood with open arms. I rambled something unintelligible about measles and insurance. He also nodded, the same knowing presence, pressing an intercom button to request a room and a doctor. Several hands passed over the baby and assured me that he was alive, while questions fired at me from a few different directions.
Swabs, x-rays, heel pricks. They blew a mist of albuterol in his face and asked me about family history. Then we waited and waited and I cried, “I thought he was dying.”
The test came back negative for the flu, positive for RSV. Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a nasty lung-attacking thing that primarily impacts children younger than 2. Things moved quickly from there. We were transferred to a children’s unit at another hospital where he went under intense supervision, hooked up to all sorts of monitors. When his breathing failed to normalize they transferred us to a dedicated children’s hospital, where we wait some more.
Wait, and pray that Tuesday will forever remain our scariest day.
UPDATE: We’re home.