21 February, 2010

A most (un)pleasant week

My older daughter gave me the best Valentine's Day present ever: she lost her voice.

I'm kidding, of course. Worse, she lost it thanks to croup. I don't know what's more frightening: the sound of croup; the fact that in nearly three decades of life as an asthmatic, I had never heard this sound before; or the fact that I heard this godawful sound coming from my three year-old daughter, who's had all her shots and checkups.

Apparently the standard treatment for croup these days is identical to the standard treatment for asthma: albuterol (through a nebulizer for such a small child) and a steroid taken orally. The treatment has another thing in common with asthma: to an eye like mine, untrained if not inexperienced in the ways of coughing, the albuterol had almost zero effect.

That's not the way it used to be, mind. I admit that I don't get it, and again I'm not trained in medicine, but: I remember back when one whiff of albuterol got my fingers trembling, my heart thumping, and my lungs coughing up mucus in what could only be described as an improvement over the dry, hacking wheeze. I could breathe again! and breathing is a beautiful thing, vastly underrated when you can do it.

The only thing I can figure is that it's the fault of the hole in the ozone layer. Seriously! Ever since the companies introduced this environmentally-friendly albuterol, I neither find relief quickly nor, for that matter, get the tremors anymore. I admit that the new formulation does calm me down eventually, but not so thoroughly and not nearly so quickly.

I thought that maybe I was developing a tolerance for the thing, although I also wondered if it might be the CFC-free version. But now I've seen the same thing happening with my daughter. I mentioned it to both doctors I visited, who didn't seem concerned. It wasn't supposed to eliminate her cough, they said, only to relieve it. The first, who actually administered some albuterol via nebulizer, asked me if I hadn't observed that my daughter wasn't breathing with such labor as she was when I brought her in. Well, no, now that you mention it; all I could see was that she was still wheezing and crouping. But hey, you're the one with M.D. after your name, so I'll trust you the same way you better trust me if I were to try to explain something in the area of my terminal degree. Seems only fair.

So I bit my tongue and wondered why everything that every medical official advised or prescribed seemed either to do nothing, or to make my daughter's case worse. Must be the untrained eye, I told myself. Steam from the shower didn't work; a walk outside on a cold evening didn't work; the nebulizer didn't seem to work—honestly, my daughter coughed worse after each of these things. They're correct that the first 2 days were the worst, but the next seven weren't a picnic, either.

After more than a week, it's finally gone, and I'm relieved. Her voice is now coming back: it's funny, because she's squeaking like a mouse. But eventually it'll come back in force, and I'm not sure I want to be around when it does. That girl takes after my mother's side of the family in the department of rhetoric, and southern Italians ain't known for being either taciturn or soft-spoken.

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