I think it would be quite helpful for the hospital to send home a note with every newborn… something like this:
Please note: at some random time over the next five years, probably in the winter, your child will wake up in the middle of the night unable to breath properly. They will likely be barking like a seal or a dog. They will probably be quite distressed, and you will probably think they are about to die, and will become quite distressed yourself. Welcome to croup.
And, indeed, this is exactly what happened in our family yesterday.
Things started off normally: Oliver went to bet about 8:00 p.m., and Catherine followed shortly thereafter — exhausted from a day at the Jack Frost Festival for Freezing Parents. I got to bed about midnight. And at 1:03 a.m. I awoke to the aforementioned seal barking sound, and found Catherine in Oliver’s room, with a very distressed little boy, pointing at his throat and quite concerned that it didn’t seem to work anymore. He was shivering. And wheezing. And trying to cough by unable.
I was absolutely sure he was going to stop being able to breath completely Any Second Now.
So Catherine and I got dressed faster than we ever have before, and we all piled into the car for a mad dash to the Emergency Room at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital — a 10 minute drive during the day, but we did it in about 4 minutes what with the lack of traffic and the panic-induced creative driving techniques I employed.
Whereas almost all previous visits the the Emergency Room had placed us 374th on the triage list, leaving us to stew in the waiting room safe in the knowledge that gunshot victims et al were getting treated ahead of is, last night we were whisked into the special “pediatric resuscitation” room, and before I knew what was happening Oliver had a mask on, and a dedicated team of experts swarming all round, looking calm and collected, and like this happens all the time (apparently, it does).
Oliver, it seems, was having his first experience with “the croup.” And he was having a barn-burner of an experience thereof.
It took about an hour before any sort of normality returned (i.e. all three of us stopped shaking): they gave Oliver various powerful “stop the croup symptoms” drugs through the magical face mask, and within about 15 minutes of arriving the worst was over. I think I saw his pulse max out in the 190s at the worst of it. After about 30 minutes he was breathing somewhat normally. When they took the mask off, he complained to the nurse that he had a runny nose — the first words he’d spoken since we’d left home.
At 3:00 a.m., after another check by the doctor and some helpful advice about what to expect over the next several days (like “it might happen again tomorrow, but probably not, but be sure to drop back in if it gets this worse again”), we were off home again. Oliver went right to sleep. I listened to the Voice of Russia for an hour before I was de-paniced enough to get any sleep.
This morning Oliver seems quite fine — to be expected, as the doctor told us that “the croupy ones are always okay during the day.” So, other than being unable to revisit the Jack Frost Fun this afternoon, things are mostly back to normal. We’re biding our time, of course, until tonight around bed time, and hoping that the evil croup monster stays in his cage. I don’t think we could take another night like that so soon.
Everyone at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was amazing: thank you!
Isn’t parenthood wonderful.
Postscript: a Google BlogSearch for ‘croup’ leads to lots of similar tales. Nice to know we’re not alone.