So, I guess I'm a fully qualified parent, now. Well and truly off my 'P' plates*
Tuesday in Canberra was a good day, if a little hot. (38 degrees** here and humid as hell) By 5.00pm our un-airconditioned house was like a sauna, so Imogen, Toby and I decamped to my mother-in-law's place for a few hours because:
a) She has a swimming pool and
b) She's a three minute walk from a very nice Vietnamese restaurant, and the thought of not cooking or cleaning up afterward had a lot of appeal.
At my MIL's, we had a lovely swim and then strolled down in the cooling evening and enjoyed a feast of Vietnamese food. Then, as the sun finally dropped below the horizon and some of the oppressiveness went out of the day, our little family headed home again to our house on the other side of Canberra. It was still quite warm inside (a solid 34 degrees), but we opened all the windows and doors, put on the fans, and gradually the house began to cool. We gave our - by then very tired - boy a quick cool shower, read him a book, and put him to bed, just like normal. He went out like a light.
Min and I sat up for a while, watched some TV, drank some water and then, at around 10.00pm, went to bed ourselves. We read for an hour or so and, by 11 O'clock the house had cooled sufficiently for us to get to sleep. A last quick check on Toby, who was sleeping soundly, and then lights out.
Until a few minutes after 3.00am, when we woke up to the horrific sound of a 2-year-old in the next room, struggling to breathe.
I don't think I've ever been so terrified as I was when I ran into Toby's room to find him kneeling on his bed, gasping like a grounded fish. His little stomach was sucking hard up into his ribs with every choking breath, and he was trying to cry but didn't have the wind for it. I sat on his bed and he tried to claw his way up me. Min was already on the phone to her mum (who, as luck would have it, is a GP) and searching frantically for the Ventolin inhaler which Toby'd been prescribed a year or so ago, during a bout of bronchitis.
This wasn't bronchitis, though, or asthma - I knew that much. He could breathe out easily enough, but was only getting the tiniest amount of air in. He didn't seem to have anything in his mouth or throat and he wasn't turning blue, but he was panicking and getting increasingly desperate.
As were his parents. We tried without success to get some Ventolin into him, but he was thrashing around so much that we couldn't get the mask over his face, or even just lever the inhaler into his mouth.
"Get him to hospital. Now." Amanda (my M.I.L) told us on the phone and within two minutes the three of us were in the car, racing to the emergency department at Calvary hospital. Amanda phoned ahead and told them we were coming.
At the hospital (which is right beside my work, and which we reached in a considerably faster time than it generally takes me to get to the office) Min ran in with Toby while I parked. By the time I got inside, Toby was in a bed in the emergency ward with about five people working on him. The nice nurse at the ED reassured me that he was okay, and going to be fine.
It was croup. Severe croup, which had swelled the tissues below his larynx to the point where his breathing was restricted. They gave him adrenaline, and steroids, and Ventolin, and oxygen and, over the course of the next hour, his blood O2 saturation levels normalised, and he calmed down. As did Min and I.
Then, at about 5.30, they transferred him to the pediatric unit at Canberra hospital. This involved a ride in an ambulance which, from Toby's point of view was the best thing ever! (He's still talking about it this morning.)
We stayed at Canberra hospital for another 3 or so hours, while Toby was checked over again and monitored. Then, at about 8.00am, they discharged us. Min had to go straight in to work and I took our - now wide awake and perky - little boy home again. I was exhausted, whereas Toby, who'd recently had both a large dose of adrenaline pumped into his system and a ride in an ambulance, was buzzing.
I stayed home with him yesterday, working from the kitchen table while Toby played contentedly. He's got an awful, hacking cough and his voice sounds a little strange, but otherwise he seems fine.
Last night thunderstorms rolled over Canberra and scrubbed the heat and humidity from the air. Toby slept soundly all night. Min and I fell into an exhausted sleep, but still woke up at the slightest cough or bump from his room, checking him every couple of hours.
Today life returned to normal. I'm back at work. I got a couple of hours of great writing done. Toby is back at daycare and Min at ANU.
It's funny - typing all this up, the fear is so fresh and real in my memory, but at the same time the fact that everything is okay and life has just ticked back to normal makes it all seem like a kind of displaced dream.
And I'm lucky, too. We can go back to normal - this is just one of those things that happen. Kids get croup all the time, though not always so suddenly and not always so severely. But at least we live in a country with a wonderful health system, and the security of knowing that we can deal with these things.
And at least, unlike so many people up in North Queensland this morning, Min and Toby and I have a 'normality' to return to.
So today I'm feeling very tired, very wrung out, but also very, very lucky.
* Another one for my overseas friends: in Australia, once you get your driver's licence, you spend a couple of years on your 'P' (for probationary) plates, which means that you have to display a large red 'P' plate on the front and rear of your vehicle, and are subject to an adjusted set of road rules with lower speed limits, 0% blood alcohol allowance and a few other bits and pieces... Once you get through your probationary period without losing your licence, then you're a fully fledged driver, and can pull down the 'P' plates.
** 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit