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.