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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Having a child in the hospital

(Shutterstock image)

Having a child in the hospital can be pretty stressful.  My friend is in the hospital with her son now, he doesn't have asthma but is having some other medical problems.

It brought back memories of having my kids in the hospital (14 times total-12 of those were for asthma.) It's really frightening when your child is having problems breathing. Asthma can go from bad to worse VERY quickly. There were many times when I knew I was in over my head. I knew that what I was doing at home (breathing treatments, oral steroids) weren't working and they needed more help than what I could give them. I am grateful that my husband's job provides good medical insurance and we could go to the emergency room and turn the care of the kids over to the professionals.

So when do you stay home and treat asthma for your kids and when do you go to the emergency room?I looked up some information on Webmd, here's what they have listed for "What are the symptoms of a severe asthma attack?"

  • Persistent shortness of breath.
  • The inability to speak in full sentences. 
  • Breathlessness even while lying down. 
  • Chest that feels closed.
  • Bluish tint to your lips.
  • Agitation, confusion, or an inability to concentrate.
  • Hunched shoulders and strained abdominal and neck muscles. 
  • A need to sit or stand up to breathe more easily.
These are signs of an impending respiratory system failure and require immediate medical attention.

Keep in mind that people with asthma can end up hospitalized with a severe asthma attack, or from an illness. Usually when my kids get a cold or flu, it turns into pneumonia. That's what has caused their 12 hospitalizations. Any cold or flu is always worse when you have asthma.

If there is ANY question in your mind about how sick your child is, listen to your gut.  Do you have "a feeling" you should call your doctor or head to the nearest emergency room? I have done that multiple times. I just had a feeling something wasn't right with the kids. Every time that happened, one of the kids ended up getting admitted to the hospital for 3 days while the doctors and respiratory therapist took over their care.

Take care of yourself during that time, especially if you have other kids at home. You can feel like you are spread way too thin. If people say, "let me know if there's something I can do...." let them! Give them a task-can you pick up junior from preschool? or the elementary school? Can you bring in a meal for the kids and hubby that are at home? Let people help you, it's the only way you'll make it through a hospitalization.

And let your kid's school teachers know that they have a sibling in the hospital. I have had many wonderful teachers who gave my kids a little extra TLC when their brother or sister was in the hospital. They could tell my son or daughter was acting differently, but didn't know why. It warms my heart to have their teachers keep a close eye on them during the week and give them a little extra love and attention.

Hopefully you won't have a child in the hospital, but if you do maybe that little bit of advice will make the hospital stay a little more bearable. 


  1. Just got discharged today after a 6-day stay in hospital. I had a severe asthma attack last Tuesday. My dad drove me to A&E because it would have taken the ambulance longer -- possibly too long -- to get there, then he wheeled me in. I had Ipratropium and Salbutamol in the neb, and 40mg prednisolone liquid. Then I got worse suddenly and ended up in Resus on another neb and IV magnesium. They gave me 1 more neb before I was taken to a ward. I had regular nebs for a day, then we tried to get off them, but I was back on soon. Tried that again, before they decided to keep at it for a bit longer. Finally just managed to get out today, but it is scary from the patient's perspective, no matter how good the staff is (excellent, by the way) and a tip from a patient; if your child is grumpy or irritable at visiting time, they are probably tired and/or upset. You want to be there with them all the time but asthma attacks are tiring and so is the hospital, where you might be awake by 7 or 8 am but only really get to sleep at 1 or 2 am, and you have meds, and rounds, and obs, and just generally a bit of a system overload. Give your child some space, especially if they are older.

    Also, be your child's advocate. I was lucky my dad was able to read me, because when I deteriorated, a nurse came in to ask me questions and do my peak flow and I could tell she was getting impatient because I wasn't -- couldn't -- answer her. She was trying to show me how to breathe, and kept trying to get me to get a better PEFR than 120. I couldn't even say 'I can't' so I looked in despair at my dad who told the nurse quite firmly that I was actually getting worse and couldn't breathe and was supposed to be having another nebuliser. Reading my discharge letter, they accepted that PEFR (35% of my predicted) which I am happy about, as that means the nurse realised what was going on at that point. All the other doctors and nurses were great, and once I was in resus I almost felt relieved because I just thought 'this is the right place, they're doing it right, I'm going to make it through'.

    I have to say though, the worst bit about the whole attack was when it started. I was doing hockey training -- given I had had an attack at the ED only 5 days before, I was going back way too soon -- and pushed myself a bit too much. There were 10 of us + 2 goalies + assistant coach (he acts as our ref) and they decided we would do 5-on-5..yep. No-one to swap out with. I didn't mention that but I already knew by then that my lungs were struggling and I knew there was no way I could do 5-on-5 for those 5 minutes. Eventually, with 3 minutes left, I slid over to our main coach (one of the goalies) literally in tears, hardly able to breathe, and just managed through sobs "I can't breathe and I can't find my inhaler.."

    I know that was waffly -- I'm very tired -- but my point is that asthma attacks and hospital are tiring, scary, boring, and a bit traumatic. It's not unusual to feel depressed when you leave the hospital, or to feel all of a sudden lonely and clingy, so if your child is acting a bit like that, or is suddenly irritable and quiet, give them some space, be there for them, and make their favourite meals or snacks or read their favourite books, anything really…just don't smother them and don't ask too many questions.

    1. Great advice! Being in the hospital is very hard. There are monitors going off, the respiratory therapists are coming in to give breathing treatments, the nurses are checking vital signs.

      It's hard to sleep, and everyone can get a little cranky.

      It's nice to have someone else in the hospital who can help. Whether they double check on the medication they are giving, or bring favorite blankets, etc from home.

      And after someone is discharged, they still need lots of love and support.

      I hope you stay well.

      It seems like the ice rink seems to trigger a lot of asthma attacks for you.

      Are you sure you want to keep playing!? :)

  2. Cranky! Definitely! At one point, there were 2 people in my room on blood transfusions who needed half-hourly obs. One woman was very wheezy and it was so loud. At about 3:45 I still couldn't get comfy and they came round to do the women's obs again, and with all the talking and buzzing and whirring and beeping of machines and the wheezy lady next to me…oh I got so p***ed off that I literally upped and went into the BATHROOM to try to sleep! I must have fallen asleep because next I knew, the nurse was knocking on the door and asking if I was ok in there because I went in when she last came to do obs! Haha it was annoying then but it's funny now XD

    And yes. To not skate would be akin to not being able to walk for me. I would quite frankly rather die.

    1. That's the pits. At our hospital, we have private rooms. There is also an arm chair that pulls out in a single bed (albeit a VERY narrow bed.)

      Once in a while we had to share a room, and I hated it.

      Sounds like skating is your life. I hope your doctor can help you keep your asthma under control so you can continue to skate.

      I was a figure skater when I was younger, and I loved the freedom of sailing over the ice.

      If only I could still skate like that....

  3. I have had countless such trips. It’s nice to share the same concerns. I hear you dear and thanks for sharing always useful information. My Mexican DrugStore