Monday, February 22, 2010

That Helpless Feeling

One feeling I didn't count on when I contemplated parenthood was the feeling of being helpless to help my kid.

I don't mean helpless to help master a skill, or learn something.  I mean helpless to help when there's some illness or injury to overcome.

I'm a lucky parent in that my children have been pretty healthy, and I haven't had to deal with serious illness.  The little guy was born with a birth defect that was surgically corrected, and while it was hard as hell to hand my nine-month-old off to an anaesthesiologist and a surgeon, and then spend the night with him in recovery, knowing the poor little guy felt awful, I knew the worst would be over soon.  He had to endure casts on his feet for some months prior to, and after, the surgery, but that too was of a prescribed, finite nature.

It's only lately that I've had to deal with something of indefinite -- perhaps chronic -- duration.
  The little guy, now five, has now been diagnosed with cough variant asthma, which means he coughs really, really hard -- sometimes hard enough to cause a bloody nose, or make him throw up -- and he does it only during the night, mostly before falling asleep but also a lot in the four-to-seven a.m. slot.  Per doctor's orders, he's got an inhaler and albuterol, and takes a nightly does of singulair -- both are steroids that are supposed to help his little lungs.  And he'd been doing well for the past month or so -- able to get by on just the singulair, without the inhaler.  But a cold has come along and set that back, and last night, I decided the true meaning of torture is listening to your kid suffer and not being able to make it better.

The coughs are wracking, and awaken me in the next room, usually from nightmares about something bad happening to my family.  I sneak into his room in the wee hours and try to elevate him.  I check the humidfier.  I look over at his sister and wonder how she can sleep through the racket.  I slip out and back to bed, but often not back to sleep.  In the morning, the boy wakes up looking haggard.  He looks as if he's got a couple of black eyes -- congestion below them making him look like some tough kid from the Our Gang comedies.  Only his sweet brown eyes and trusting, always raised eyebrows belie that impression.

Fingers crossed, the asthma won't turn into the full-blown kind, and the medicine will start to work again.  At night in bed I find myself  making a parental prayer of sorts, even though I'm not much of a believer, so it's more like wishful thinking.  I wish, as an old Jewish saying goes. that this is the worst thing that ever happens to him.  I can't help but think about parents and kids who have things a lot worse, with more life-threatening issues,  and try not ot let my anxieties get the better of me -- which they tend to do at four a.m.

So here's a wish for peaceful sleep tonight, for my little guy, for me, for my family, and for all the little ones, healthy and not -- and their worried parents -- trying to get through the night.

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