The Observer

Am I “The Observer?”

Catherine has what’s known as “stridor.” Basically, it’s a sound that comes from inflammation in her throat obstructing her airway just enough to produce a sound when she breathes. Sort of like an old man on oxygen – or at least what I hear in my mind when envision an old man on oxygen. Our ENT said, “It sounds much worse than it actually is,” so we just try to deal with it as part of our experience of normal. Sometimes, it gets much worse though – like this morning.

I had asthma as a kid. I remember struggling to breathe and frankly, it was scary. My mom used to put me in the bathroom with the shower running so it got all steamy. She sat with me and had me drink tons of water to open up my lungs, so I could breathe. I guess it was a homemade version of an inhaler, and it worked. I’m really thankful she did that. Though stridor is not at all asthma, every time Catherine has a bad episode, I flashback to the bathroom, and I feel scared. Not so much scared for Catherine, for I pretty much understand what’s happening, but I literally feel the same fear I did as a kid. I wonder if Catherine feels that feeling. It sucks.

This morning Catherine had a bad episode that caused her chest also to retract. Retracting means her chest collapses as she struggles to breathe. That’s not stridor. It’s just her little body working extra hard to take in the O2’s we all need to live. When she retracts and you can hear the stridor, it literally makes my skin crawl and I want to run away.

A nurse was here this morning, so she helped Catherine get through it. Catherine also had a deep, productive, messy sounding cough (“Should she go to school?” I quickly wondered), and the nurse decided she needed chest PT, which Brian refers to as “beating.” It’s not, of course, but someone might think it is if they watched what happens. The nurse cupped her hand and hit Catherine’s chest repeatedly to try to break up whatever in her lungs was making her cough. It’s used for people whose muscles aren’t strong enough or controlled enough to help them cough really hard.

I sat outside Catherine’s room, unable to do anything, watching her and the nurse on our video monitor. Suddenly I had a thought: Would an author writing a book describe me as the “cold, uncaring Observer”? Is that how Jodi Picoult would describe me so all her readers could see me in their minds?

Am I that mom?

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  1. Heavens no! You are not an observer! You are a mom who was glad the nurse was there so she could care for your child! And you are a mom who doesn’t want your fear to be transferred to your child! I say stay in the hall when you can and just be ready to go back in if you’re needed!

    BTW, great explanations and descriptions of stridor and of respiratory therapy!


  2. Thank goodness for the nurse. That alone took the burden off you. She did the right thing for Catherine. You know what to do now should you be alone with her. But the last thing you have been through her whole life is an uncaring Observer. Don’t ever think that. You and Brian have done an amazing job with her so take pride in that. She couldn’t have better parents, remember that!!!!!

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