Ellie has asthma: diagnosed by desparate attempts to barely inhale air into lungs. Horrified parents “help” while petrifying a previously trusting girl.
In the ER at Children’s Hospital we initially had no idea what was going on. The nurse gave us the face mask to put over Ellie’s nose and mouth and left us alone in the room. Elle struggled with all her might to free herself, pleading with us to help, yet confused that we were the ones forcefully holding her down pushing a scary mask over her mouth and nose. Sweat dripped off all of us. Especially off Tim who was relegated to straight jacket duty. I was in tears sympathizing with Ellie’s fear, confusion and her use of the signs we had been teaching her: STOP! I imagined we were forcing her to inhale something that was painful, or worse, harmful. Without thinking, I donned the mask for a few minutes to relieve my nervousness, and hopefully calm hers. With so many friends and family in the medical field, I’ve heard more than my fair share of “medical mistake” stories.
A fabulous book exists called It’s My Body. It teaches kids to trust their feelings. If uncomfortable, a child is given several ways to express herself. One of them is to put up her hand and, if using words yet, say firmly “Stop!” Together, all of us had been reading this helpful book for 3 or 4 days previous when this first asthma attack put us in the emergency room. That awful day my girl was not practicing her new skill, she was DEMANDING it in only the way I would hope she would, to no avail. Her face reflected devastation that her parents were the non-complying adults. Anguish ridden and feeling distraught, we vowed never again to let the nurse leave before telling us how to administer treatment, then to cope with this breech of trust. Unfortunately, after too many attacks, we’ve honed our skills. Fortunately, we now know more about preventing the attacks in the first place. I’m inhaling now, with great relief. While she has eczema (often the two go together), we haven’t seen asthma for about a year. Our bodies have relaxed, but thankfully not from sheer exhaustion.
I brought my camera because I imagined the worst. Having already had a sister and mother die prematurely, I didn’t want to be without precious images. Still, I didn’t even think of the camera until after the storm subsided.