Well, technically, I don’t have new grey hairs yet, but I earned a few that I’m bound to get. You see, Lily has bronchiolitis, and she gave us quite a scare last night.
Lily’s poor little body is creating mucus like it’s going out of style. It makes breathing rather difficult and distressing for her. The cough she has doesn’t help matters. The combination has made eating miserable. She has a hard time breathing through her nose while she eats, and the swallowing washes more mucus into her stomach. The frequent result is choking and spitting up.
During one of last night’s feedings, Lily started coughing and choking on a combination of mucus and formula. At first, it’s just S.O.P., as Amanda tries to either prevent her from spitting up or at least control the trajectory of the emesis. Suddenly, Amanda’s banter with Lily takes a distressed tone. “Please breathe, Honey”, she says. I look up from my laptop and see Lily struggling to gurgle breaths through the gunk clogging her throat and Amanda’s face look panicked.
I manage to suppress most of the terror welling up inside me and instinctively switch into Spock mode. I take Lily from Amanda, make my way upstairs to the bathroom, my heart beginning to pound. As I walk up the steps quickly but carefully, I’m assessing Lily’s appearance. She’s not fighting to breathe anymore, and her body is going limp. Her eyes seem to express helpless fright as they stare at nothing in particular.
I reach the top of the stairs and carry her into the bathroom, heading directly to the sink. I hold her in one arm and open the bottle of saline with my other hand, as I try to suppress the emotions welling up inside me and my hands begin to shake. I lay the rag doll in my arm with her head over the sink. I spray a blast of saline in her right nostril and hear the most wonderful sound I’ve heard in the world, as Lily screams in protest.
She continues to scream as I spray again and proceed to use a nasal aspirator to remove as much mucus from her nose as possible, but I don’t care. Those screams were loud proclamations of, “I can breathe, Daddy!” I finishing providing what little help I can, knowing that there’s a lot of mucus remaining that’s too thick to suck out.
I carry a now-exhausted and sleepy Lily back downstairs, hand her over to Amanda, and collapse to the floor to regain my composure. Feeling weak and shaky, I want to sob uncontrollably, but the tears don’t come. Amanda and I just move on to planning how to best arrange for Lily’s eating and sleeping that night.
Without fanfare or dramatic cinematic musical fade-out, we were back to the navigating the daily management of family life. The horror story we’d almost been part of was over, just like that. Life just goes on, and we continue to earn our grey hairs, a few dozen at a time.