I passed the treadmills in the center room and quickly entered the bunk room - the bedroom we'd converted early in the summer for all the kids to sleep, a bunk bed lining each east and west wall. Mentally taking inventory, two were asleep in the bottom of the cherry bunk. One quietly asleep in the top of the cherry bunk. Bottom pine bunk empty (Sash had climbed in with Meiners). Top pine bunk ~ coughing. I stepped over piles of folded laundry on the floor to make my way to her side.
On the top bunk, Pookie's head lay parallel to mine as I peered through the bars. Although sleeping, she slept restlessly. Moaning. Cough. Moan. Cough cough. I left her side and sprinted up the stairs.
Earlier in the night, Pookie complained before bed. Hers is a predictable bedtime routine. All the other children pop their vitamins into their mouths, head to the bathroom to brush their teeth, and trip over each other to get down to their bedroom before daddy counts to 30. It's a traditionally successful means of getting the kids to bed quickly. Except for Pookie. She has several medicines to take. And she distracts herself watching TV instead of taking them until I lose my patience. And lately she's added to the longevity of her medicine regime by getting nebulizer treatments before bed, as well. Add 15 minutes for that. Then she'll plod off to brush her teeth. Out she comes to ask for her retainer to be cleaned in Efferdent. Back she goes to finish brushing. Out she comes to ask for water. Notices TV. She sits nonchalantly on the edge of the couch pretending to get sucked into the show her dad is watching. I yell. She maintains her gaze on the screen as she backs toward the steps. I stand in a threatening way. Daddy starts to count. She races down the steps. Minutes later, she reappears, asking for water. A hug.
This night, Pookie followed her usual protocol for bed. Only she added complaining. Complaining that her chest hurt. Complaining that her back hurt. Complaining that she just didn't feel well. I was losing my patience. Again. Not because I'm an unsympathetic mom. But because this had been going on for a week. Every day, the nurse at school called. "She's compaining that her chest hurts." "She's complaining that her side hurts." "She's complaining..." I'd talked to the pediatrician. I'd talked to the cardiologist. I'd talked to my friend the respiratory therapist. I'd talked until I was tired of asking and hearing the same answer: her ancillary muscles are fatigued from the asthma exacerbation last week. Give her Tylenol.
I brought Pookie's nebulizer downstairs and started plugging the machine in and preparing the medicine. I climbed the ladder and straddled her. "Pooks. You're having a hard time breathing. I'm going to give you a treatment. OK?" Her eyes fluttered. She groggily nodded and allowed the band to stretch around her neck and the mask to be placed over her mouth and nose. While the medicine splayed into her airways, I laid down beside her and prayed.
Pookie's heart pounded in her chest. She sucked in half breaths that racked her body. She coughed. Tears streamed down her face. "It hurts! It hurts! It hurts!" She coughed again. The dark road stretched before us as I entered the highway and pushed the gas pedal down as far as it would go. The treatment had ended and the coughing intensified. I found the phone and called the hospital. Earlier in the day, I had called both the pediatrician and the pulmonologist to see what to do about the crackles returning in Pookie's lungs upon ausculatation from the school nurse. The pediatrician advised going through pulmonology. I felt lost without the safety net of our lovely, sweet, maternal doctor's after-hours exchange. I launched into a description of the previous three weeks with the unfamiliar, non-english-speaking doctor from the hospital's pulmonology department who took my call. Upstairs now, I could hear Katelyn crying and coughing and my husband yelling for me to come quickly. Coughing up blood. I hung up and grabbed the bag Daddy had speedily packed for Katelyn's now-inevitable trip to the E.R. We debated calling an ambulance. I turned the overhead lights on to keep an eye on Pookie from the rearview mirror. Speeding through stoplights I reached the highway. I turned on VBS songs to calm Pookie from the backseat and to give myself the chance to pray.
Briskly, I walk along the familiar path between two concrete buildings. I promised to be back in 20 minutes. I wonder at a car driving through the court which was once a driveway but is now remodeled into a walkway. I slurp my frozen coffee. I consider antibiotics and how easily I confuse their names. On blood thinners due to her artificial mitral valve, I find myself repeatedly telling the nurse, "She can't have that ~ it interacts with her coumadin." It's no surprise that the doctors have to carefully consider what medicine to give Pookie to combat this aggressive pneumonia. I think about a trip to the ER in Nashville three years ago when the doctors gave Pookie a shot that resulted in a week's hospital stay due to Ceftriaxone's interaction with Coumadin. I struggle to remember the newest name to memorize, Cefepine, that the doctors today promise does not interact with blood thinners in the same way. And Unasyn that they discontinued because it is too closely related to the augmentin that Pookie had been on for 10 days prior to this hospital stay. And the Cefdinir she took as a pre-med for her orthodontic appointment Wednesday in the midst of the augmentin regimine. And I walk along the sidewalk and pray.
I sit on the eve of what would have been our biggest family vacation of all. Her wish granters visited her in the hospital on Sunday night. Their generosity astounded all of us. The week passed and the I.V.s were pulled. She came home to recover. And to pack. But late last night, as I contemplated which suits and where were the goggles and floaties, she stumbled upstairs. Itching. Scratching. Allergic. The medicines prescribed to help her over these last few days of fighting an aggressive and resistant pneumonia became too much for her 46 pound frame. She itched and scratched and bled. And we called it off. It has all been too much - for her and for us - and she needs time to recover. So we wait. And Make A Wish will reschedule. And she will heal. And I pray.