Thursday, December 01, 2005

Health Lessons

My six year old daughter has spent the past three days and two nights in the Womens and Childrens hospital due to suffering a severe asthma attack.

What looked like being a cold suddenly turned into a case of asthma serious enough for the GP to send us off to the emergency department. Several hours later, the doctor there told us that Sapphire would have to spend the night. "I'll stay with her," I immediately responded.
"No, how can you?" said LC in concern. "What if you get a migraine, or....?"
"I won't, I just won't. I have to be there for her."
He persisted, this time with the doctor: "Why does she need to stay overnight? I have asthma too, so I'll know what to look for and how to give her ventolin."
The doctor looked as though he'd seen similar scenarios before between a child's parents, and kept his face remarkably expressionless as he said, "She needs puffs in shorter intervals than three hours, so it is recommended that------"
"I'm going home now to pick up some things for Sapphire", I said, rushing out the door and effectively not leaving Love Chunks with a choice.

Somehow the car found its way home so that I could roust my brain together enough to get Sapphire's pyjamas, toothbrush and colouring-in books and a change of clothes for me. Half an hour later I was back with a green enviro shopping bag crammed haphazardly with Jessie the Cowgirl poking out of the top with a deranged smile on her face. LC greeted me with a hug and whispered, "You were right. She does need to stay and I know why you need to be with her. I'm sorry."

At bedtime (8:30pm, thanks to the nurses who turned out all of the lights), LC went home and I sat up in the dark on the rickety fold-out bed beside Sapphire's. She's always being called a tall girl for six years old, but in that bed, labouring to breathe, she looked as tiny as the baby in the crib we'd seen in the emergency waiting room. At the same time I was mesmerised by her beauty. Every single golden hair on her head, her long lashes, beauty spots, soft lips and graceful profile I gazed at, admired, loved and adored. It was hard for me to imagine that there would ever be a stage in a parent's life when you would no longer be dazzled by the natural beauty of seeing them sleeping peacefully.

Every hour when the nurse yanked back the curtain to give Sapphire ten puffs of Ventolin, I sat upright to check on what they were doing, if Sapphire was OK and if there was anything I could do to help. Naturally I'd then stroke her hair and kiss her soft cheeks after the process was completed. Luckily Sapphire mostly slept through it all, but my arm was awkwardly crooked to the right because she'd fallen asleep clutching my hand and I didn't want to disturb her.

As discussed in my previous post (, the March 2005 episode in my life was remarkably fresh in my mind all throughout Sapphire's three day hospital stay. The ache of my arm was good: it was strong physical proof that my daughter wanted me, needed me. How on earth did I get to the stage of thinking that she and LC would be better off without me? How could I not have realised the damage that could have been done if I'd been 'successful' and Sapphire would not have had the strength of my hand to hold? And why does it take a six year old whose influences are Harry Potter, Wallace & Gromit and Mulan, to show me this?

The ache of my arm showed me that I truly did have something to give and made feel so priveleged to have been the lucky one to be laying down beside her, holding her little hand, hearing her breathe.

Despite leaping out of bed every hour in my worried Mum mode, I must have fallen asleep just before her 6am puff was due. There was a gentle tapping on my head and I stirred to see, through eyes that felt as though they'd been rolled in gravel, Sapphire. She smiled, saying, "Mum you look funny when you sleep."
"Oh, do I? And I suppose you think that you look gorgeous when you've got your mouth open, snoring like a walrus?"
She giggled, which then turned into a wheezing cough. "Oh M-u-m," she coughed, still laughing, "Don't make me laugh. I'm glad you're here, but you're not supposed to make me sick."
I supposed not. I quickly gave her a hug, so that she wouldn't see the tears in my eyes and ask me any embarrassing questions.

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