Elijah's worsening cough worried me Thursday and Friday. It was nearly constant, he was losing his appetite, and we were both miserable. I wanted to take him back to the doctor, but I convinced myself there was no point to it. I had already been to the ER twice in one week. The ER doctor had assured me it was just a cold virus. There wasn't anything anyone could do to help him get over a cold virus, besides it seemed like I only brought home more diseases every time I ventured into a medical building.
So I sat on the big exercise ball bouncing miserable, coughing Elijah all day Thursday and Friday, and waiting for him to improve. But Friday night neither of us slept much. I think I totaled an hour and a half of sleep. The rest of the long night I held Elijah while he coughed and cried and then just coughed. He couldn't sleep, he couldn't nurse, and eventually he was too exhausted to even cry. I waited and waited for 9:00am. I called the pediatrician at 9:01am and was able to secure one of the coveted Saturday morning sick child appointments.
By 10:15am I held Elijah in the waiting room while my other four kids sat spell-bound by The Little Mermaid playing on the big screen. The other parents eyed me as I walked around and around in a daze while tiny Elijah coughed and coughed and gagged and coughed again. He was pale and limp now, not even opening his eyes, but saving every ounce of energy he had. As I walked and waited I spotted a small poster on the wall which read, "No family is immune from a story like this." It was the story of a 6 week old baby girl whose dry cough had gradually worsened over four days. She stopped breathing while in her mother's arms in the doctor's office and could not be saved. She had died of Pertussis or Whooping Cough, which her unimmunized father had given to her. Suddenly my mind raced, drawing connections. That was exactly the scenario we were in: Matt's persistent cough for the last month and Elijah's worsening incessant cough that was choking him in my arms right that moment.
My other kids had been immunized, I had received a Pertussis booster after giving birth to Elijah, but Matt had never gotten an adult booster shot. I looked down at Elijah, who was gasping and gagging again and suddenly feared for his life. The receptionist sat at her desk, casually typing as my baby suffered, and I couldn't decide if I should wait patiently or ask her to call 911. Finally, at 10:40 the nurse called us back. Not much later the pediatrician walked in the room, listened a moment as Elijah coughed, then furrowed her brow. "That's Whooping Cough," she declared, confirming my fears.
We gave Elijah a nebulizer treatment right away and measured his oxygen level. It dropped and stayed around 80% while he was coughing but quickly rose to 97% when he caught his breath. We discussed the possibility of hospitalizing him, but the doctor advised that there really wasn't anything they could do for Elijah in the hospital that we couldn't do for him at home, and that our whole family would be more comfortable caring for him at home. She left the decision to me. I left with a prescription for an antibiotic for him and instructions to keep him near a vaporizer, give him albuterol nebulizer treatments every four hours around the clock, and not take him out of the house for at least the next two weeks while he was still contagious. I wasn't supposed to expect improvement for the next 48 hours.
My head spun as I drove to the pharmacy while Elijah coughed. I was exhausted from lack of sleep, worried for Elijah's health, and unsure if I could possibly care for him and everyone else through weeks more of sickness. We finally got our prescriptions and settled at home. I was glad that Matt was working an early shift and was home a few hours later. Elijah seemed almost to be in a coma in between coughing fits. He didn't move, didn't cry, didn't open his eyes. Even when he wasn't coughing, he didn't seem to want to nurse much, and I feared he was getting dehydrated. I spent the day holding him, giving him breathing treatments and antibiotics and Tylenol, coaxing him to nurse, and praying for the coughing spasms to end.
Gradually the time between spasms lengthened, Elijah rested and ate more, and I began to breathe a little easier too. I can't say why Elijah improved so quickly. It may have been the nebulizer treatments, but perhaps it was God's grace in response to the prayers of many on our behalf. It's funny how we ask everyone to pray, and yet I find myself surprised when God intervenes as we have asked him. We pray for healing, but don't really expect to see improvement until the antibiotics can take effect two days later. How gracious that God intervenes anyway.
Saturday night was a little better, with 20 minute breaks or so between fits when we were able to rest. On Sunday morning Elijah opened his eyes, blinked, and then smiled when he saw my face. That just melted my heart. He continued to improve Sunday, with times of happy play interrupted by heart-wrenching coughing spasms. During one spasm he began to turn blue, and during two others he vomited. Last night we had our first real rest with hour or so stretches between coughing. Today Elijah has only had five or six bad spasms. He vomited once, but has spent a good deal of the day smiling and playing. This is far better than we expected two days ago, and I am thankful.
Below is a video I took today of the middle of one of Elijah's coughing fits. The fit lasted 11 minutes total, this is just three and a half minutes long, but it is heart-breaking enough. I'm sharing it so that those who are not familiar with Pertussis can understand better what we are going through right now. Thank you for upholding us in prayer. It may still be a long road ahead for Elijah.