Papa Sez by Todd Hunter-Gilbert Issue #7
Papa Sez
by Todd Hunter-Gilbert

Night Terror - March 2004

Past Issues

During the nine long months of pregnancy, my greatest hope was for a child who was healthy. Happy is good. Smart is good. But healthy, invaluable. There was, I knew, a 50/50 chance he would have my muscular dystrophy. And believe me, I spent a lot of energy hoping he'd be spared that.

Beyond that was the general fear and hope for every other potential malady that might threaten him. But he came out fine and didn't have so much as a cold for the first seven months. Even his colds he endured fairly well--they never progressed to the types of ear infections that leave many babies wailing for days.

Then came a horrible night in late fall of '01. We put him to bed at his usual time and all seemed fine. We went to bed ourselves not long after, ensuring that the baby monitor was on. Most parents have stopped using one by this age, but between our room and his lie three white noise sources and he was not yet able to climb out of his crib. Without the monitor we might not hear him.

He had, this particular week, taken to waking hungry in the night. The days of midnight feedings were long past, but one night he'd woken up crying and I didn't want to wake Denise, so I got him a cup of milk and a munchy something and he'd eaten then slept. So each night for a week this repeated.

I was not surprised then when I heard him making noise at 1 AM. I got up and started downstairs for the goodies. As I passed his room, I noted that the sound was odd. I went in to let him know I was on the case and he'd have a snack shortly.

He was sputtering and gasping. In the dark (turning the light on would mean at least an hour of rocking and singing) I reached for him. His body was shaking with the effort of breathing and he was obviously terrified. I flipped on the light and started examining him. He had one of his snuggly toys wrapped around his neck, but it was loose and there was no sign that it had been tight. I took him to Denise so we could have two brains working on it.

She suggested, since neither of us knew what to do, that we call 911.I went looking for the phone and while I was searching she screamed out that he was turning blue. With renewed vigor I found the phone and dialed. The operator led us through a little triage and determined an ambulance was needed. But it was eight minutes away so she dispatched a fire truck also, which arrived in just about three minutes.

By this time Denise had Quinn downstairs where he was gulping at air and getting some in, with a little barking sound. I was out front watching for the cavalry, escorting them in when they arrived. As I led the first fireman in I heard Quinn's gasps and shuddered in fear for him making it through the night. The fireman, however, visibly released tension and said, "Ah, croup."

Croup, for those of you that don't know, is a breathing effect seen in kids (usually under 3 years old) when an infection causes a swelling in the tissues of the airways. It becomes hard to breath and the child makes a characteristic sound--like a seal barking. We'd read about this little bugger but had dismissed it as a minor event we'd easily deal with if Quinn got it. We missed the part about severe cases being potentially fatal.

So there is the medical info portion of the story. There were further events that occurred that night I had planned to relate, but I'm over my word limit. I'll save that part for next month. See you then.

Be well.

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