Nothing Funny Happened on the Way to the Hospital

Oxygen Mask Tube - this portion stays outside ...
So . . .

Janie spent last night in the hospital for observation.

She spent all Sunday evening and part of Monday morning coughing and sneezing and being miserable, and while she didn’t have much of a fever, she was clearly staying home from day camp.

When a kid agrees that she isn’t well enough to go on a field trip to the water park, there’s something going on besides the cat’s newfound preference for sleeping on her pillow—add a midmorning fever spike and labored breathing and we stopped being concerned about allergies and started worrying that it was Return of the Son of Pneumonia, which was so much fun for everyone involved the first time.

My husband took her to the pediatrician, who didn’t think that was the problem, but her oxygen levels were worrying and her breathing was labored, so he ordered an x-ray, just in case.  While they waited, she was given breathing treatments, which seemed to help both her breathing and the family’s mental state.  My husband’s texts after that were mostly about how long it was taking to be called for the x-ray and then to find someone to interpret it.

It was my late night at the library, so I left my phone in my bag while I was on the public desk.  When I checked it at the end of my shift, I had twelve messages.

The first one that popped up was from Watson: Okay, we have Sunny taken care of, so don’t worry about us.  You need anything for Jane?

The second was from my husband, They want Janie to stay in the hospital overnight for observation. She’s being transferred . . .  The room number followed.

The rest of the texts were reassurances that didn’t help much, under the circumstances:  Her breathing was better, but her oxygen was still too low.  They’d given her steroids to open her air passages.  She wanted to see me.

The feeling was mutual.

She’s in the same hospital where she was born, just before they built the new maternity wing at the east hospital across town, which seemed, as I drove there,  more ironic than nostalgic.

It’s an old, venerable building, and no amount of renovations can hide that the rooms were not designed to be comforting or comfortable, but the pediatric nurses are the good ones, the ones you want there if, for example, your ten-year old stops breathing in the middle of the night.

One of them directed me through those big double doors that must be closed at all times for reasons I never want to contemplate, and I found the right room with no trouble.

Janie was sitting up, surrounded by the remains of her dinner and having an friendly argument with her father over the television remote.  Her doll, Penelope, had been tossed aside in favor of a couple of sugar cookies.

If her whole body hadn’t been jittering in place, I would have thought that this was a monumental waste of a good maternal anxiety attack.

“Hi, Mommy,” she said.

“How are you feeling?” I said, feeling her forehead out of habit before rolling my eyes at myself and giving her a hug.  She vibrated in my arms, a sure sign of the steroids and the breathing treatments.


I stayed with her while my husband went home to gather up toothbrushes and jammies and clean clothes for Jane and himself, and to put Sunny to bed.

“Did you get any sleep today?” I asked, \noticing the dark pink rings under her eyes.

“I took a really long nap—Grandma was worried.”

Yeah. “Do you think you’ll be able to sleep tonight?”

She held out a shaking hand and grinned,.  “Probably not.  I have to breathe through the thing every three hours, anyway.  I’m gonna watch Food Network really late.”

“Your Dad might have something to say about that.”


The nurse came in, checked her levels, and stuck an inhaler in her mouth.  She told me that Jane’s oxygen was borderline, and kids’ level usually dropped during the night, so they might put a tube in her nose.  Jane didn’t seem to care about that—another sign she was less herself than usual, though she did take out the inhaler to complain that the announcer had mispronounced Guy Fieri’s last name.

My husband arrived with his duffel and I hugged her again.  “Try to absorb a little more oxygen, okay?  For me?”

She nodded, took a deep breath, and started to cough.  “Sure, Mom,” she croaked.

“That’s my girl.”

And I went home, checked on Sunny, and lost myself for an hour in one of my time management games—if I couldn’t help my daughter breathe, by heaven, I’d  keep my dream-hotel customers happy while vanquishing the nightmare-monsters that were breaking their little satisfaction hearts.

According to my husband, who called early this morning as I was launching my fifth attempt to get Sunny to brush her teeth, Jane’s oxygen levels were normal this morning—but they want to run tests to find out exactly what she has and why an otherwise robust, non-asthmatic kid keeps getting hit with all these respiratory problems.

We don’t know if she’ll come home today, but regardless, it’s my turn tonight and tomorrow to stay with Jane and apply/witness the round the clock breathing treatments.

Under the circumstances, I really don’t mind a bit of sleep deprivation.

Especially since I was miles away when they tried to get a blood sample this morning—according to witnesses, it took three nurses and my husband to get it done.

Looks like she is feeling better . . .