coughing wheezing asthma with good job quesadilla

It was a trying and scary week here in Santa Barbara. When Melika, Tom, Tiger and Arrow returned from a long weekend holiday in Mexico, Arrow had a cold. This is not unusual — preschools and kindergartens are hotbeds of germs. It is, in fact, abnormal when nobody in Family Adams has a cold. But on Tuesday, Arrow’s cough turned into a wheeze and his normal breathing treatment didn’t relieve the symptoms. Melika booked a quick trip to the pediatrician; Nazy and I drove him over for reassurance.

“He should go to the ER,” she recommended.

ARROW at Cottage

That’s not reassuring,” I thought.

“I’ll call them so that you won’t have to wait. Leave now!”

I alerted Melika as we drove the few blocks. Tiger and I, who were supposed to go to swimming class, sat in the waiting room while Nazy carried Arrow into the Emergency Room. Melika arrived shortly thereafter. In the ER, they began breathing treatments. Nazy and I, thinking that things were now under control, took Tiger home and headed to dinner. Then Melika called — I heard only a part of the conversation —-

“… Pediatric ICU?” Nazy replied. “We will be there right away.”

When we arrived, Arrow had a breathing mask, Oxygen, an IV, a heart monitor, a breathing monitor and an oxygen content monitor. He was in relatively good spirits, but it was jarring to see all the tubes and wires.

I headed to Nirvana to sleep near Tiger and Arrow so that Tom could come to the hospital. Nazy and Melika spent the night sleeping next to him …

“… holding his hand,” Nazy reported. “So that he doesn’t pull the IV out.”

He seemed a little better the next day — but he still had significant breathing problems. He was a hot topic during morning rounds. His doctor began by explaining Arrow’s situation and detailing the treatment and medication he had received. But, while all of this was going on, Arrow was awake and watching. The presenting doctor asked for questions and Arrow was ready.

“I want my coffee now!” Arrow shouted. (Well — shouted about as loud as he could.)

In general, Arrow was a super patient. Whenever he wanted something he asked with a please and when he received it he responded with a thank you. He took his medicine without complaining. With some complaint, he even allowed them to draw blood. He didn’t like the X-ray.
We thought that things were getting better, but that evening, while Nazy and I were staying with him at the hospital, something happened — it was like he had a panic attack. He started hyperventilating and …

“What’s happening?” I shouted to the doctor.

“He is breathing air into his lungs, but because of his asthma, he can’t exhale.”


“So there is a lot of pressure on his chest and his brain is sending a signal that he has too much carbon dioxide. That’s why he’s breathing in more quickly.”

“Why can’t he exhale?”

“It is harder to exhale than it is to inhale.”

That’s a design flaw,” I thought. “What are you going to do?” I exclaimed as Nazy hugged Arrow and comforted him.

They augmented his breathing treatment with an IV medication and increased his oxygen levels. They also gave him a muscle relaxant. He eventually calmed down, but it took a while and the whole thing was scary. Melika, Nazy and I stayed with him and took turns sleeping in his bed. For some reason, the beds in the pediatric ICU were not long enough for comfort. (They’re also not long on leg room.) In the end Melika and Nazy were both with him every dangerous night.

nazy sleeping with Arrow PICU

The next morning, Arrow woke up and felt a bit better. He was pleasant when they came in to replace the clip on his toe. (Something that was used to measure the oxygen levels in his bloodstream.) They fussed and poked while Arrow patiently waited. Then, we they were finished…

“Good job!” Arrow exclaimed.

Arrow was a perfect patient: patient and pleasant. He took his medicine without complaint. Nazy, Melika and I discussed the situation.

“Can you imagine how different this would be if it was Tiger in the hospital?” Nazy asked.

Arrow with his water colors in PICU

“Well — I can’t imagine Tiger saying ‘good job’ after someone jabbed his toe,” I replied. “I don’t think Tiger would be a particularly good patient.”

“Yep,” Nazy concurred. “
He’d be like you, Dan.” Nazy thought.

“And suppose it was Azelle,” Melika note “She would have ripped the IV out and probably destroyed the attached machinery.”

“Can I have a sip of water, please.” Arrow interrupted.
arrow doing puzzle

During the day, he got video messages from Mitra, Darius and Christiane. Friends sent video get wells. Arrow especially liked to watch Tiger and Tom’s videos and Kaylee’s video (Kaylee is his very special friend at pre-school).

And, although he seemed improved during the day, that night, Arrow had another panic attack — worse than the ones before. He was breathing very heavily, his heart was racing and he was clearly in pain whenever he coughed. Swarms of medical experts swooped in and eventually stabilized him. By the next morning, he was feeling better and, it turned out, he was over the worse. Things only got better from there.

As Arrow was enjoying lunch the that day, he told Nazy…

“The doctors in this house make a good quesadilla.”

From here, they began to reduce his medications and oxygen. While Melika and Nazy focused on Arrow, I helped out with Azelle and Tom took charge (as much as it is possible to, eh, take charge) with Tiger.

On the last night, Arrow woke up and…

“… they won’t give it back to me, Mamon.” He shouted.

“Won’t give what back?” Nazy replied.

“My hand. They won’t give me my hand back.”

It turned out that the IV had fallen out. They came and removed the IV and decided that he was doing so well that it wasn’t necessary to replace it.

By Saturday evening, he was out of his bed and walking (a little). The next day objective was to get him out of the ICU. In fact, he recovered so quickly that he was able to leave the hospital completely.
Azelle at playground on Sunday

He spent Sunday visiting with Tiger, Azelle and Tom’s Dad’s family. He built puzzles, agreed to wear his glasses and painted with his ‘water color’ set. He ate — a lot. He asked Tom…

“… where is your bed in this house?”

and he told the staff…

“I like the nice people in this house.”

On Sunday afternoon, we all left the hospital. Arrow was in good spirits and was, in fact, back to being himself. It was a good feeling to be past a scary time.
Arrow with his glasses smiling

Everyone worked hard to help Arrow get better. Azelle and Tiger did videos for him and visited (and played) as soon as they could. People in the PICU were there around the clock with support and help. Melika and Tom gave love and comfort to Arrow while keeping Azelle and Tiger happy. It was a village.

For last week's letter, please click here

Leaving the hospital

going home with Arrow

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