Sunday, February 12, 2012

Update on Isaac

Well, the last few days have been an entirely different sort of experience. Let me begin by backing up.

Three years ago almost to the day, Isaac for the first time ever started wheezing one night after having had a cough for a couple of days. It being in the evening, I took him to a pediatric urgent care, where they diagnosed him as having illness-induced asthma. However, it was very mild, so after one breathing treatment right there, he was sent home with an inhaler so use for the next few days until he was completely over his symptoms.

Given that this episode was a very mild and entirely isolated incident, we did not really think of Isaac as being "asthmatic". The rest of the year, he is healthy as a horse and never gets sick. But, like clockwork, he would develop what I thought was a cold every single year around this time. I remember it distinctly because it is always the week before his birthday.

Last Sunday, after playing outside for a couple of hours in the afternoon, Isaac's eyes started to become red and itchy, and he started coughing. At that point, I finally started making the connection that he did not have a cold (discharge was always clear), but rather seasonal allergies. More than ever before, I was suddenly noticing all the pollen on the trees around our house, on our street, and the nearby park. I don't know if this year is a particularly bad year for pollen, or if it was worse because our sprinklers had been off and there had been no rain. Also, the kids used to not play in the front yard as much as they do now (our back yard only has citrus, which blooms in the fall), where they can ride their bikes down the street and play with the neighbors.

 Stuff on the side walk in front of our house from the tree in our yard

Seasonal allergies are a very common problem where we live in Arizona - we get zero rain for months on end, while trees that have been brought in here that are not indigenous to the area produce high levels of pollen, and need adequate precipitation to keep that out of the air. For me, I never used to have any allergies until we moved here, but not have them mildly pretty much year-round. It dawned on me that Isaac never had illness-induced asthma, but rather allergy-induced asthma.

So, for the next couple of days, I kept Isaac indoors, and he seemed fine as long as he stayed away from the front door. He kept coughing in the evenings, but there was little to no wheezing, and his eyes were not watery.  Still, I insisted on him using his inhaler whenever the coughing started, as well as treating him with herbs that control asthma, and coughing. By Wednesday, he was definitely showing great improvement, and was dying to go back outside and play. He being my outdoor-type of guy, I felt bad he had been cooped up so long, so on Thursday morning, I let him go outside for 15 minutes just to get some fresh air, but would not allow him to ride his bike or play wildly. 

By Thursday evening, he again started coughing, and even wheezing which he had not done in a couple of days. My rule of thumb for home treatment is that if there is no improvement within 24 hours, or if there is a relapse, I take the children to a doctor. Depending on the severity, this could be a naturopathic clinic, or an actual MD. At this point, it was clear that Isaac needed to be seen by a doctor. 

Since my husband was out of town on a business trip, I called my mother-in-law on Thursday evening so see if she could fly out the next morning to watch the other five kids while I took Isaac to the doctor. She is a flight attendant, and can fly fairly easily on short notice. I also notified a good friend from church that if Isaac got any worse, and needed to go to urgent care during the night, I would need her to come to the house and watch the kids while I was there.

As the evening wore on, Isaac didn't really show much change, but his cough and breathing were concerning. I spent a good hour calling every single pediatric urgent care, as well as every regular urgent care within a 30-mile radius, to see if any had wait times that were not in the 2-3 hour range. Apparently, this is RSV season, and all waiting rooms were full. I knew the ER would be even worse, and did not think Isaac was sick enough for them to triage him and get him in quickly. It was basically a toss up between what would be worse - waiting to see the regular doc in the morning, or dragging him out in the cold night for hours. Isaac was insistent that he was fine, just not able to fall asleep. 

In the end, Goodnight Pediatrics in Mesa gave me an expected wait time of about an hour. I had been there before and liked them, so it was an easy decision. The other kids had gone to bed, and my friend A. came over to spend the night until I got back with Isaac.

Upon arriving at the urgent care, they immediately took his pulse oxygen levels when I told them about his breathing and wheezing. It was low, so we were taken to a room right away, and seen by the pediatrician within a couple of minutes. He explained that the situation was worse than it appeared, and that they would do a breathing treatment right there, but he didn't think it would improve Isaac enough to be able to go home. 

Two breathing treatments later, Isaac still was not able to maintain adequate oxygen levels without the supplemental oxygen, and we were told he needed to transfer to the hospital for continued treatment. The children's hospital was about 8 miles away, so I could not even take him there myself in the van, the clinic said it needed to be a medical transfer so he could continue receiving oxygen during the trip. 

An ambulance was called, and we were on our way. No lights or sirens, as there was no hurry, just a need for the oxygen. Since I was riding with Isaac in the back of the ambulance, my van was left at the clinic. A sweet young couple from our church drove out there in the middle of the night to pick up the van, so my mother-in-law could have it at the house for the other kids when she arrived in the morning. She was due to arrive shortly after 8 AM on the first flight, would take a cab to our house, and relieve my friend A. who had spent the night there with the other five kids.

Once at the hospital, they continued breathing treatments and oxygen for several hours in the pediatric ER in hopes of being able to release us by Friday morning. However, while Isaac's lungs began sounding better again fairly quickly, his oxygen levels would dip too low anytime he went off the oxygen. We were transferred to a room by early Friday morning. 

By Friday afternoon, he finally started showing great improvement, and was able to get off all oxygen by Friday evening. During the day, my mother-in-law and I kept taking turns staying with him, and caring for the other children at the house. By Friday evening, my husband had arrived back home, and he was the one to spend that night at the hospital with him. Saturday morning, the doctor said he was well enough to go home, and we were released around noon. 

 Waiting to be released

At home, he has continued treatment as prescribed, and is showing great improvement. We are due to see the pediatrician on Wednesday or Thursday to have him completely cleared of this episode. The doctor at the hospital said Isaac would not need daily treatment, given that this is such a rare problem for him.

As I surveyed our front and side yard last night, I noticed two trees that are currently in full bloom and dumping pollen everywhere. Both are varieties of Ash trees, a common allergen. Naturally, Isaac is not allowed outside, and it is SO hard on him. Of all the kids, he loves to be outside the most. 

Thank you for those who have prayed, helped out, and brought food. Very special thanks to the reader who commented regarding Ash trees, allergies, and asthma in our area. Knowing the exact trigger makes a HUGE difference in being able to prevent such episodes in the future. 


  1. I know how scary that is. I'll be praying for Issac to continue to heal.

  2. That sounds so scary. I'm glad Isaac is better.

  3. Oh my goodness, how scary! I have full blown asthma and I know from experience that things can go out of control very quickly, thank goodness he wasn't kept waiting at the docs.

    I am so thankful that Isaac has made a full recovery, I hope something can be worked out so his asthma is kept under control, poor little guy :(

  4. I'm so sorry he had to go through this and am glad they were able to treat him so effectively. Is it possible for you to have the offending trees removed from your property? I know there isn't much to be done about neighbor's trees but perhaps just removing the ones so close to your house would help him. I hope he continues to improve daily.

  5. I'm glad that he was able to get off the oxygen. Asthma is really scary. If not treated soon enough, it can get bad very quickly. I suggest that you should monitor him for any coughing or wheezing symptoms, no matter how minor, to see if there are other triggers. Try keeping a log, if possible. Make sure he has that rescue inhaler available, just in case. He is very lucky to be okay now.

  6. Poor kid. I hope he continues to feel better and that you get some rain to wash the pollen away so that he can get back to playing outside safely.

  7. So glad he is better! Having asthma myself, I know how quickly it can go from "not so bad" to serious. Glad you have your eye on it.

  8. Glad he is feeling better.


  9. so glad he is okay. Asthma is the pits huh. I have many friends that have children with it. God is good to take care of us.


  10. We have had that same experience, and I can relate with what we've gone through with my son. I have started taking my son off of gluten and dairy products. He had a bad attack this past weekend but he improved and we have to give him an inhaled steroid when we start seeing the signs, along with breathing treatments. The ash has been high here recently also. We have an allergy forecast that I check daily and I've been keeping him indoors. He was in the hospital for a week last season and from October to February we were in the ER once a month. Last year, was the worst cedar pollen season we've had here in years. So, we know the main triggers now. The doctors would always give him an oral steroid also when we'd bring him in, however, we've been able to avoid that this year. I am so glad Isaac is doing better. I will continue to pray for him and complete healing.

  11. What a weekend!!! So glad you had people available to jump in and help and that Isaac is on the upswing. When mine were little, it seemed like every time my husband went out of town, something major happened.

    At least you know the trigger now and next year you'll be ready for it. I have no doubt you'll be propping up his immune system in December to get ready for February. Our bad season is right around the corner with our olive trees. Isaac's ordeal has reminded me that I have two highly allergic kids and three giant olive trees that flower all of March. My husband wants to tear them out, but we desperately need them for curb appeal.

    If you can't totally get rid of your tree, maybe a major cutback in December would alleviate a good deal of pollen. You know how people top their trees in Phoenix? Maybe you could do a good number on that tree next year. I'm going to remind my husband that it's time to prune our trees!

    Glad to hear he's doing better and I feel for him being stuck in the house. People who aren't from Arizona don't understand that Phoenicians live outside. I spent my entire childhood on my Grandmother's screened-in back porch. We ate out there. Slept out there in the summer because it was cooler than the swamp cooler. We were NEVER in the house. It pains me to be inside, even now as an adult. Hang in there, Isaac!!!

  12. I'm so happy he is doing better. That must have been so scary for all of you. At least now you know what the trigger is to try and avoid and know what to do in the future should it happen again.
    -Karen E

  13. Oh that's awful, but I'm so glad he is alright now. Between two of my siblings, my parents had to make hospital trips 4 or 5 times due to asthma, including once with a 5-ish year old almost completely unable to breathe and once with a child under 1. It can be a very scary occurance, though once actually in the hospital it's usually pretty safe.

    I'm glad you've probably figured out the cause, that will help a lot. Do you plan to cut the trees down? Or are you renting and unable to?

    Poor guy, I'd hate being cooped up inside too. Maybe an option, as a special treat, would be to take him to one of those indoor kids play areas, sure there's no sun but he can play ball and climb and stuff.

    I'll keep him in my prayers

  14. Praying for little Isaac and for mum, how frightening for the both of you! Thank God for those in your church that were able to help you whilst your husband was away.

    God Bless you, your husband, and the seven--especially Mr. Isaac,


  15. ZZ,

    Please be careful with Isaac. Unlike adults, children with asthma can go very quickly from "just fine" to "desperately ill."

  16. It is always SO scary when your children are matter what they have. My husband suffers from seasonal asthma and it is HORRIBLE. So glad that Isaac is on the mend and hope he stays healthy from now on in!

    By the way, I would love to have citrus trees in my backyard!! It is about 10 degrees here today. :( Anything citrus related would run far away from my backyard right now! LOL!

  17. What a scary weekend for Isaac and your family. It is good that you are real hands on Mom because it could have been so much worse. Praying that Isaac continues to improve and doesn't have to experience this again. Isn't it wonderful that you have such awesome friends and family to help you out during this crisis.

  18. I'm so glad he is doing better. My oldest has asthma and it can be scary when they have trouble breathing. I'm so thankful God led you to go ahead and take him in that night. Praying he stays well.

  19. So glad Isaac is better. I am happy that you had family and church friends to help you. I will keep Isaac in my prayers.

  20. for future reference, don't worry about wait times. Breathing issues are serious, and usually given priority. That's the whole point of triage.

  21. So glad that Isaac is home and well again! We will continue to pray for him.

    Thank goodness you have a wonderful mother-in-law and friends to call upon!

    I had childhood asthma and it was very scary for my mother...she says I would go from coughing a little one day, to not being able to breathe the next! Doctors wanted to give me steriods, but my mothers decined and only gave me my inhaler when necessary. I eventually grew out of it! But it does rear up during the first few weeks of pregnancy, or when I'm stressed.

  22. Happy to hear he is doing better and has gone home!

  23. So glad to hear Issac is better. Will be keeping him in prayer.

    I just printed out your husband's scripture cards, and my goal is to take them to the gym with me and work on memorization while in the eliptical machine for 30 min. I pray while swimming--one person, family, or situation per lap. It is amazing to be alone in the water with my thoughts on God for a 5 mile swim. I didn't know how to thank your husband for the scripture cards he made, so I am hoping you will pass on my thanks to him.

    Blessings, Mrs. Mari

  24. my daughter, 5 yrs old, has major allergies to outdoor pollen, cats, dogs, many foods. Have you tried an allergy mask when he goes outside? I know they look weird and he might be shy about wearing one. I've seen some kids in our area wearing them. Might be able to check with a drugstore.

  25. I was so scared when I was reading this post , glad that he is doing better now . It is so good though that you have an idea of what triggers his asthma , I don't know what triggers my kids asthma but I am going to start keeping up with it and maybe I will figure it out one thing that triggers mine is pollution , when we have to take Leah to Erlanger in Chattanooga I have bad attacks whenever I walk through the parking garage and now I never go near there without an inhaler , I will pray that Issac heals and can go outside soon .

  26. Hi Zsuzsa, prayers going up for Isaac and your whole family. How scary! I agree with the previous poster about calling on wait times - it is not necessary. A child with difficulty breathing will be seen immediately. So happy he is feeling better and hope he stays that way.

    I do have a question for you regarding your mother-in-law. You state that she is a flight attendant. I am curious how you justify this, since you are vehemently against women working outside the home. I am not trying to start an argument, I am simply curious.

    God bless your family.

  27. I have heard (from a bee keeper in an organic honey shop) that eating local pollen in small quantities, can over time, produce an immunity to it and decrease allergic reactions. I have no idea if this is actually true, but it does make some sense, and might be something to look into.

  28. Emmy, I feel no need to justify other Christian's actions and behaviors. They answer to God, not me, for both good and bad - I am on the same level as they are. It's like asking one child how he justifies the actions of his sibling. I seriously do not even give such questions any thought at all.

  29. Her mil has all adult children and no reason to be in the home full time. Nothing to justify.


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