This winter has been colder than any I remember. Everyone has been stuck inside, breathing each others’ germs. Illnesses have been running rampant in child care centers, schools, workplaces and homes. Being a parent during a winter like this is tough, especially if you are unlucky enough to have a child that keeps getting sick.
Parenting a sick child can be both physically and emotionally draining. This is true whether your child is sick with the more common ear infections, stomach flu or strep throat; it is especially true when you have a child that is hospitalized.
One of the awesome people I have met in my travels this past year (Tim Ford) wrote about what he and his wife have been going through with their son. Their poor 10 year old has been very sick. After saying a prayer for healing for their boy, and a strength for Tim and his wife, I reflected a bit on my own experiences with my kids when they were sick.
When Grace was a baby and young toddler, she had lots of rashes, ear infections and bad colds (including RSV). Her dad was working a lot, so it was usually me taking care of her. The stress of worrying about my little girl, made sleep difficult. I was completely drained of energy most of the time. Luckily, we had a network of family members that helped out. Sometimes their help was in the form of a meal, sometimes it was just hanging out, offering emotional support. Grace ended up getting tubes put in her ears when she was about 13 months old. It made a huge difference in her ear infections. She was also diagnosed with excema which we later found out was related to allergies. She was allergic to 12 of the 14 environmental things they tested her for, and 4 food items. No wonder she had always been sick! She now takes Zyrtec from about mid-March until December. It helps a ton! She also takes Hydroxizine at bedtime every night for allergies and itching. She still seems to be cursed with ear infections a few times a year, and usually deals with a few bouts of strep. We are in the management phase with her, and it seems to be going well.
Michael came along, and he showed me the true exhaustion that comes from having a chronically sick child. When he was 4 days old, he was diagnosed with an ear infection. His pediatrician said that in 20 years, he had never seen an infant that young with an ear infection. So began our journey. Michael had non-stop ear infections until he had tubes put in. Even after he got them, he continued to get infections. With Michael, it was scary, because he would get fevers of 104 and higher. Grace had never had a temp over 101, so every time his temp went that high, I freaked out! He also got RSV several times, and was hospitalized overnight at least twice (if not 3 times). At one point, Michael had rotavirus and influenza at the same time. Poor Grace almost had to have her 5th birthday party cancelled because he was so sick! On her actual birthday, Michael and I spent the night in the hospital getting him IV fluids because he was severely dehydrated. I spent the first two years of his life sleep deprived, and emotionally drained. The stress of having a child who was constantly sick took it’s toll on my marriage. It was hard to even function some days when it felt like our life rotated from breathing treatments, to medications, to Dr.’s visits, to immune tests, to xrays, to ER visits…
It wasn’t until he was about a year and a half or two that Michael was diagnosed with asthma. I had suspected it all along (with all the breathing problems he had), but our Dr. in MN was reluctant to put that label on him until he was at least 2. With the diagnosis, we were able to start him on the path to healing. We got him on a Flovent inhaler as prevention with Albuterol in various forms as needed. For a real emergency, we had an inhaler and nebulizer. The inhaler made him really crazy, so we tried to avoid that. If he was feeling tight in his chest, we had a liquid form of albuterol for him. This was my preferred method, but sometimes we needed something that acted faster. I also started taking him to the chiropractor. We had tried the chiropractor for Grace’s ears – it didn’t help her. With Michael, it worked wonders. He was about 15-18 months old when I started taking him. Within a month, the ear infections disappeared. When we missed about 3 weeks in a row (for various reasons) he got an infection so bad half his face swelled up. That was proof to me that the adjustments were working!
As he was getting to be about a year and a half, I also noticed his tonsils were huge. I have pictures of him laughing, and you can literally see his tonsils almost touching. As he started getting strep more often, and his tonsils never really went to normal, I started getting concerned. I took him to one ENT who wouldn’t even look at them until he was 2. I waited a couple months, they continued to grow. It got to where they were almost touching. He had terrible sleep apnea (remember the whole sleep deprived thing? You don’t expect it when you have an almost 2 year old). He began choking on food. I called and requested a different ENT who took one look and said, “These need to come out!” I think it was a week later, and Michael was in surgery. The week after that had ups and down, but nothing out of the ordinary. Since the tonsils have come out, Michael has had a few ear infections (in fact, he had a 2nd set of tubes put in about a year and a half ago), and has had strep a few times, but overall, he is doing much better! He is down from 4 or more breathing treatments a day to only taking Flovent (the preventative inhaler) when he has a cold. He rarely ever needs albuterol, rarely has ear infections, and is overall a much healthier child.
The journey through illness, allergies and the like is a long one. When you are in the middle of it, it feels like’s never going to end! You can’t sleep, can’t eat, you are completely drained of energy and health. It’s all you can think about most of the time. The support of friends and family is so important during even the toughest times with a chronically sick child. It also helps to explore your options. If you are not convinced that what one Dr. recommends is the best choice for your child, don’t be afraid to ask for a different one. Don’t be afraid to try non-traditional methods (such as the chiropractor). What’s best for your child and your family is up to you. Just don’t be afraid to ask for help (even if it’s just someone to come hold the sick baby so you can take a quick shower)!