It has become the norm in the last couple of weeks to wake up to the sound of my teen-aged son coughing in the room next door. Ever since he was two and diagnosed with asthma, any time he was sick we could expect a fit of coughing somewhere around 2:00 a.m. This morning, though, was different.
I had been asleep for four hours when it began. My groggy brain recognized the coughing and was about to dismiss it, when the sounds changed. There was some thumping and a squeak of his bedroom door as he rushed out of his room. I expected him to head into the bathroom across the hall, but instead he turned left toward our room.
"Help me," he managed to get out in between strangled gasps for air.
My husband had already bounded out of bed and headed for our bedroom door. When he opened it, we found our son sitting on the floor, trying to get air into his lungs.
It's all kind of a blur after that. I remember hitting him on the back, trying to force whatever was blocking his airways out. I was a bit panicked, not knowing exactly what to do. All I knew was my son was in distress and needed help.
"Oh my god, Dan. Do we need to call 911?" I asked, scared out of my wits but trying to remain calm.
"I don't know." Somehow my husband managed to lead my son into the bathroom, where he continued to vomit the rest of his carbo-loading dinner.
"Just sit here, put your head down, and breathe," he said. I suspected my husband, with his own history of asthma, had some firsthand experience with this type of situation. My son at this point still couldn't talk and was swallowing compulsively, but at least he could clearly breathe. "Do you want some water?" he asked. My son nodded his head, the only way he could answer.
"I'll go get it. You stay here with him," I said and headed downstairs. If I was going to remain calm, I needed to keep myself busy. After returning upstairs and handing him his water, I turned to the task of cleaning up the carpet in the hallway. That didn't stop me, though, from asking a few hundred times if my husband thought we should take our son to the hospital. This was my baby, my 16 year-old beautiful boy, and I needed some reassurances that he was truly okay.
A phone call to the advice nurse helped to allay my fears somewhat. She suggested sleeping propped up and eating some honey to soothe his irritated throat. After answering my questions about aspiration, we were ready to get off the phone and try to get a couple more hours of sleep. My son, though, had one more question.
"So, am I cleared to run this afternoon? I have a track meet."
Clearly, he was feeling better.