Do you know what croup sounds like? My impression of croup, until a month ago, was that it is a deep rattly cough that sounds like it's originating in the lungs. Why did I have this idea? Was it from asking our pediatrician, my mother, or even random internet chat rooms? Nope. I extrapolated this false assumption from Anne of Green Gables.
If you've ever read or seen Anne of Green Gables, you may recall that she saved Diana's sister from croup by giving her syrup of ipecac, which basically makes you throw up with the intent of ridding your lungs of mucus. That's the last time I take any medical advice or treatment cues from Anne Girl. Croup has nothing to do with mucus clogged lungs. It's the swelling of the throat and central airways which produces a tight barking cough...which is exactly what James had when he caught his first cold. I remember very vividly sitting at the dinner table while he was barking in his bouncy seat and saying to Kevin, "What is croup anyway? Isn't more in the chest? James' cough is tight and in the throat. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne gave Diana's sister syrup of epecac to save her from croup and that wouldn't help a cough like this. So, this must not be croup." Looking back, I can't help thinking how ridiculous that was. Why would I take medical treatment cues from a children's fiction book written a century ago?
Needless to say, that night was really bad for James, so bad that we rushed him to the ER at 2am. From about 9pm on, he was up every 40 minutes or so coughing. I would go into his room, give him the pacifier or rock him to sleep, only to be back in there not long after that. By 1am, I was laying on the floor in his room trying to get some rest in between comforting sessions when I realized that, if I wasn't hearing him cough, I wasn't sure if he was breathing. That is when I picked him up out of his crib and went to Kevin, knowing we had a serious problem.
I threw some clothes on and put James in his car seat to go to the ER. Kevin stayed behind until he got one of our neighbors to sit in the house with Monica. That drive to the ER was probably one of the scariest times of my life. As I drove through town at over-the-speed limit listening to my little guy cry and cough, I could only thank God that he was crying because then I knew he was breathing. Kevin followed about 15 minutes later. We went to the university hospital in town and Kevin, not thinking completely clearly at 2am, took the longer route through campus. Mistake. As some of you may remember from the old days, 2am is last call at the bar, and just after 2am is when all of the bar crawlers stumble home. So here's Kevin, trying to get to the hospital to comfort his wife and son while weaving through the winding one way streets of campus and dodging drunken students. Fortunately no one was injured!
By the time Kevin reached us, James already had a dose of steroids (to reduce the inflammation) and a breathing treatment (to open the airways). We ended up having to be admitted since James needed two breathing treatments within two hours. We ended up waiting in the ER exam room until 7am, when we were finally taken to our room at the children's hospital. We only had to stay for about 12 hours, which was long enough for me to be truly thankful that we were only dealing with croup, and not the other long term health issues that so many of the other children on the floor were experiencing.
Suffice it to say, I'll never forget what croup sounds like, and when in doubt, I'll give the doctor a call instead of relying on faded memories of my favorite children's novel!