It Started with a Cough

Actually, it didn't start with a cough, it started with a slightly runny nose on Thursday morning. By 11.45 on Thursday night we were at the walk-in centre. Less than an hour later we were whizzing to A&E in an ambulance, blue lights and sirens and the full works.

Officially, Birdy was suffering from 'viral wheeze'. Unofficially she had an asthma attack, except we can't call it that because she's too young for a formal diagnosis. Her tiny lungs were squeezing, whistling and wheezing, in spasm. All her coughing and straining for breath wasn't helping. Neither was her blue salbutamol inhaler.

After two sessions with the dreaded nebuliser (she can't tolerate the mask so I have to hold the thing under her nose, following her round as she twists her head away), I sat beside her bedside throughout the night watching the monitor, listening to the alarm bleeping, and administering 10 puffs of salbutamol every hour in the hopes of getting her SATs to stay consistently over the magic 92. While she slept, relaxed, her heart rate would drop to near acceptable levels, but her SATs would fall too. When she woke, her SATs would rise, but her little heart would be racing at over 180bpm and her respiratory rate would reach upwards of 45 per minute, stomach, chest and neck straining with every breath.

To put it into context, her heart rate should be 100-150bpm, and her respiratory rate should be 25-35 per minute. SATs should be over 97.

Nobody was panicking. We weren't talking intensive care. They didn't even crack out the oxygen. I wasn't terrified, or in fear of her life. It wasn't as bad as that. Just long and tiring and unpleasant for us both. By the morning, things were looking more positive and the doctors started talking about lengthening the time between each lot of inhalers and eventually reducing the dose to 6 puffs - the maximum that I'm able to administer at home. It was borderline, but by 8.30pm they discharged us, extracting a promise that I'd be back at the first sign of trouble, and arranging for a community nurse to visit daily.

Sometimes people will say, "I don't know how you can do it as a single parent!" or something similar. I'll tell you how I can do it. I can do it because I have friends who, at 11.30 at night, will leave their own families and come to my house to kip on the sofa so that I don't have to disturb my son in the middle of the night, and then, on 3 hour's sleep, take my son to their house and look after him for the rest of the day. I can do it because I have friends who are willing to give up their whole morning in a mission to retrieve my car from the walk-in centre and bring it to the hospital so I can get us all home when it's over. I can do it because I have friends who are willing to give up their afternoon to come and sit in a hospital and watch Birdy so I can nip home and brush my teeth and pick up essential supplies; friends who are willing to pray, friends who will call, text and message words of support and love. When the rubber hits the road in single parenting, it's all about our support network. Mine is awesome.


  1. Your friends are truly awesome - bless them all

  2. Wish I knew you and could be on your emergency call list. Mental note: find foster parents in local area...

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  4. Asthma attacks are truly scary. Both my son and I have asthma. My son still can’t tolerate the nebulizer mask or the noise it makes. I always sit him on my lap, supporting his body with mine, and hold the end near his face. He hates it but is comforted by the warmth of my body on his.


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