I was six when I went into hospital for the first time. Elbow surgery. They thought I had cancer. What looked like a large tumour on X-rays turned out to be 'just' an abnormal growth of my radial bone. Goran is only two-and-a-half, and besides the entire first month of his life spent in NICU, he has amassed a further THREE hospital stays – first for bronchiolitis, then pneumonia (and a grommet op), and now bronchospasm (asthma attack). That's a total of one-and-a-half months in a 29-month life span spent in the confines of one hospital bed or another. Jesus. Anyway, for the benefit of those who don’t follow me on Facebook, below is a detailed account of Goran’s most recent hospital visit, the likes of which I hope never to see repeated, as it was definitely the most harrowing to date.
At 6am on Monday, after keeping both Lee and me awake the whole of Sunday night with a tight chest and persistent dry cough, Goran awoke demanding cereal. After breakfast I nebulised him and SMSd his playschool to say that I would be keeping him home that day. By 8am his breathing had become extremely laboured and he was wheezing really loudly, at which stage I knew we were in the throes of a full-blown asthma attack. I bundled him into the car and raced down to his paediatrician at our local NHC, who took one look at his horrible grey pallor and listless demeanour and immediately hooked him up to oxygen. Within ten minutes he had phoned Goran’s paediatrician at Olivedale Hospital who said he needed to be admitted right away. I don't even want to know how many speeding fines I racked up between Northcliff and Olivedale – all during the tail end of rush hour traffic – but by 9am he was in the High Care Unit at Olivedale, attached to oxygen, a drip, and a plethora of monitors, being nebulised with adrenaline and magnesium sulphate. By that point he had progressed to what is called a ‘silent chest’ – inflamed airways and bronchoconstriction, meaning there was no longer enough air movement in the lungs to actually produce wheezing. Sadly, many people interpret the disappearance of wheezing during an asthma attack as a sign of improvement and fail to get prompt emergency care. But without immediate aggressive treatment in an ER or ICU, chances are the person will eventually lose consciousness and die.
Two nights and three days later he was discharged, and we had to take him back yesterday and today for IV treatment. We are currently in a four-hourly nebulising routine, which he absolutely hates, writhing around like a feral cat being given a bath, and for which I'm seriously considering investing in a straitjacket. Next Wednesday we have a follow-up appointment with his paediatrician who will prescribe an ongoing course of asthma maintenance therapy. We simply cannot afford a similar episode, especially during the Jozi winter ahead, and especially while he’s still so small. Otherwise, we're pretty much back to normal. He will be going back to playschool next week. It's just for four hours a day (8:30am - 12:30pm), and I'll be keeping an extra beady eye on his health for the next couple of months.