Sleeping, her coughing subsided as her body began to tremble. Small shakes turned quickly to an uneven but terrifying shiver. Her breath caught as her eyes blinked open. I could see the shock in her eyes. Her body was betraying her. Her body was cool. No fever. Lance scooped her up and stripped off her clothes as I ran into the bathroom to run a bath.
Her breathing was labored and erratic. Her body shivered in kind. Seeing that she was having trouble sitting on her own, I pulled off my clothes and got in the tub with her. I held her against me and breathed with her. The water was hot, but her shivering wouldn’t quit.
The water covered her now as I rocked her in my arms. Her skin was mottled, her hands a patchy purple. Breathe…slow…breathe….slow….shhhhh….slow, I willed her to calm. I willed myself to calm. Lance ran in with more albuterol and ibuprofen to add to her tylenol and steroids.
Breathe. Slow. Shhhhhhhh.
Fever. Fever. She’s hot. Too fast. This was happening too fast. Breathe. Her coloring worsened, the lines of the mottling of her skin grew purple. I moved her from my chest and laid her against the back of the tub, hoping that stretching her out a little would help her breathing to slow. It didn’t work. “Something is wrong.” Lance came in with a towel, swaddled her gently and then held her tight as she continued to shiver.
Soaking wet, I ran without a towel into my closet to find clothes. We had to get her to a hospital. Do we call rescue? Would they be fast enough? Breathe. Calm down. Breathe. Her shivering subsided but her breathing had yet to respond to the medication. Clothes. Where the hell were my t-shirts? Why do I have ONLY pajama pants but no t-shirts? Focus. FOCUS. Think.
I grabbed my hospital bag that I had emptied just last week in a fit of arrogance. Things had been going so well. Six months since our last ambulance ride! Focus. Focus. Why won’t my ADHD quiet just for a minute? Focus. Clothes. Socks. Hospitals are cold. Clothes for Abby. I’m sunburned. Stop. Focus. What do I need? Where are my t-shirts?
“Get Heidi!” I yelled to my boys downstairs. “I need a diaper bag. I need…shit…” I notice my hands trembling. Pull it together. Breathe. Lance is sitting on the bed with Abby who has fallen back asleep. Her breathing is too labored, but the shivering has almost stopped. Her fingers were still purple.
We need to go. We need to go. Where’s my phone? Breathe. Breathe. Shhhh. Lance carried Abby who was at this point not waking up to the car. Heidi handed me my keys and a soda as I ran out to the car. Too fast. This is going too fast. The last time her body reacted like this she was carried away by a helicopter.
I gun it out of the neighborhood, careful of the kids playing as the sun shined too brightly in my window. I glance back at Lance. His face grave as he held Abby in his arms. He was too afraid to put her in her seat where her head would slump against her body, further obstructing her already labored breathing. The car was hot, but Abby was still shaking so we didn’t turn on the air conditioner.
Grateful for a car with some horsepower, I screech the tires as I head out onto the main road to the hospital. I’ve done this drive too many times in the amount of time we’ve lived here. I clench my fists and release them again in an effort to make the shaking in my hands subside.
Cars are too slow. I pound my hands on the steering will in an unseen effort to get them to just move.
Breathe, Abby. Breathe. Slow it down. Please, God. Slow it down. Her eyes were still closed, her head still slack against Lance’s chest. Her body seemed to calm a little. She was no longer shivering.
I notice little things outside. Cars parked on the side of the road, people in the strawberry patches at Shartner Farms. I glance back at Abby. Her color was returning to her fingers, the mottling on her skin had almost disappeared.
“She’s okay. She’s okay. Her breathing has slowed down. I think she’s responding to the medicine,” Lance says. I pull over and open the back door. Her breathing had slowed. Her chest had stopped pulling into itself. She was okay. She had responded. She was sick, but not hospital sick.
I shut the door to the car and place my hand against it, feeling the heat under my palm. I steady myself for a minute, convinced I’m about to cry. I don’t usually have time to break down fifteen minutes into trauma. It’s usually days before I realize how scary things got. She was okay in almost the same time it took her to scare us in the first place. She’s okay. The fear that had been directing my movements now had little place within my body. I felt it wash through my veins.
I hate being afraid. I hate it. I hate not knowing if she’ll respond to the medicines we give her at home or if we’re on our way to our next trip to intensive care. I hate the worry that accompanies the knowledge that without intervention, we could have just lost our daughter. In fifteen minutes.
I’m exhausted. The fear that pushes me to act also seems to drain me of any energy when it leaves my system. My bones hurt. I know I won’t sleep much tonight. I will sit by her bed and listen to her breathe. With any of my other kids, we would have still gone to the hospital to make sure everything was okay. But for Abby, we only go to the hospital when we have no other choice. Exposing her crappy immune system to new strains of her next emergency doesn’t make a lot of sense when we can care for her at home. Still though, I think about what a relief it would be to have her hooked up to machines that would watch her sleep so I didn’t have to. So I could sleep.
I laugh. I wouldn’t be able to sleep in the hospital, either.