Staving off Panic

In a recent post, I said that patience was dependent on circumstance. I concluded that it ebbed and flowed. My husband countered that patience was an acquired skill, requiring concerted effort. Man, that requires time, and in this world I thought multitasking was the skill du jour.

My husband and I both had a few moments this week when we could have both yielded to panic. In the wee hours of Thursday, our son's laboured breathing woke us up. I was on the threshold of panic. As I felt myself draw closer to the edge, I searched for a solution.

I called the info-health line. Five, ten, fifteen minutes I waited, which meant that I had to listen to my son's every wheeze. With very breath I drew closer to the edge. I reminded myself to breathe and that I, too, had asthma as a child and knew that breathing at night is sometimes more difficult. I kept my thoughts in check. Panic zapped me when I started "what iffing." What if he dies because we waited too long for our overburdened health care system to respond? I stopped myself. That thought was too chilling.

Enfin, Allo. The nurse instructs us to wrap junior up and take him outside for a walk in the cold air. Did that. No change. Next thing, turn on the hot water in the shower. Let it run until the bathroom fills up with steam. Did that. No change. Junior still struggles to breathe.

I have a ventolin inhaler. Is it safe for a 20-month-old? The solution momentarily held panic at bay...but summoned anguish. Action. Relief for anguish: Internet research. Two sites: one says child must be 4 years old; the other says 6. Question: are ventolin inhalers calibrated differently? Why the difference in age? I see the headline, "Mother Uses Unprescribed Medication Resulting in...." Never mind. No ventolin.

I dressed Junior, prepared a hospital bag: diapers-check. Water, milk, bottles-check. Snack for hubbie-check. Panic hovers.

Hubbie arrived at Emergency at 5:45 am. I waited for a phone call. No cell phones in hospitals. Shit!

In triage, Junior was not deemed a high priority. His laboured breathing continued. My husband found the intake nurse. He insisted. Action. Junior was given cortisone. Waited an hour. Not working. Doctor tried some sort of adrenalin. Slight improvement. Then the wait in Observation.

Waiting at home, I called on patience. It was semi-reliable. Panic had subsided, but continued to return unexpectedly. I reminded myself that my daughter was about to wake up and worry about her brother and father. I was the adult here, right? Didn't feel like it.

I called on my acting skills. I reassured her that her brother was fine. But panic was still in the air. I told her several times not to worry and get ready for school.

My husband waited hours in Observation and called to see if I could take over. I showed up. We were both exhausted. I took my shift. Junior looked better, but still had a wheeze. Doctor finally appeared. He told us to return in three days if the situation didn't improve. Just laryngitis...

It is now two days later, and Junior is still sick. He has a fever. Panic is still on the not-so-distant horizon.

In retrospect, I conclude that panic, the enemy of self-control, is kept at bay through action, or finding solutions. That's what worked for me. What works for you?


Anonymous | February 15, 2009 at 1:43 PM

I hope Junior is feeling much better now. I think I would have had a very hard time not panicking in that situation! But I think you're right, taking action and finding solutions is the way to fight it.


Heather | February 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Thanks for writing Anonymous! It was a harrowing experience.

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