16 March 2011

Jeeped Up on Albuterol

When G and I became parents, we followed the same approach toward medicine that we have personally - only take it when its absolutely necessary. We aren't freaks about it, but colds are lived through or treated as naturally as possible - saline and honey, anyone? And headaches are endured unless they are migraines. Not because we think medicines are "bad", but because we want to make sure the medicine works when we really need it. And when EC came along, we chose not to ask the pediatrician for antibiotics every time she got a cold. And to ignore the advice of well meaning friends and relative that suggested that cold medicine for babies was fine. And with EC, we were very fortunate. She didn't get sick very often. I'm sure that staying home with mommy helped. But since she was my only child at the time, I had the time to be obsessive about hand washing and bringing along a shopping cart cover to keep her hands away from the germs of the previous occupant. She also didn't have any chronic childhood illnesses. So, EC made it to age three before she ever had to take antibiotics and she passed a relatively illness-free existence. That is before she had a little sister.

Adding another baby into the family put a quick stop to my obsessively clean ways. Both, when we were out and about and at home. Poor LR had to crawl around on a floor littered with cheerios and my obsession with washing EC's hands before every meal went by the way side. I just didn't have the time to obsess - I was too busy juggling two kids.

We quickly discovered that our little theory about medicating our kids was a bust, too. LR was born with reflux. Most babies at least have a few days of newborn contentedness before the reflux starts around day 7, but LR came out screaming and just didn't stop. We were quickly sleep deprived AND desperate to calm her pain. Selfishly, we just wanted her to stop screaming. Round the clock screaming is good for no one. So, when at 6 weeks old, she was diagnosed with infant GERD, we forgot to ask about the side effects and just greedily accepted the prescription for Prilosec. And, we are fortunate that as far as medicines go, Prilosec is pretty side effect free. LR quickly became the happy baby that she was meant to be, but the special formula that she was on required her to be on an additional medicine for constipation and sometimes she had breakthrough pain with the Prilosec and had to take Mylanta. Before we knew it, there was an entire section of the kitchen cabinet dedicated to LR's daily meds.

Without those medications though, her life would have been miserable. She probably wouldn't have grown well because of the pain after feedings. Not to mention that my marriage might not have lasted through 15 months of that kind of screaming. I don't know anyone whose marriage could withstand that kind of torture. I would imagine that it would have been difficult to bond with our new baby too. It is really hard to feel badly for someone when they are screaming at you. So, we weighed the options and medicating her won by a lot.

When LR was diagnosed with asthma, we agreed to put her on daily inhaled steroids with albuterol as needed. But, this time we labored a little longer over this decision. LR's asthma trigger is viral infections. Even in the winter, she has a cold maybe once a month. Would putting her on daily medication for a once a month occurrence make sense? Plus that word steroid is scary. When she's taken oral steroids in the past, they make her aggressive - she hits her sister and throws tantrums at an alarming rate. The albuterol makes her heart race. Was all this really necessary?

We decided to try the medicine. Messing with a condition that affects your child's ability to breathe seemed a worse option. And that was all proven to us last week when LR had to stay in the hospital. Her condition got worse so fast while she was on the medicine, I hate to think what might have happened if she wasn't taking anything. And watching her go through what they had to do to her to get her lungs functioning normally again was just heartbreaking. This is something that I don't ever want to have to witness again. LR was given three albuterol treatments before she even got in the ambulance. Another in the ambulance and four more in the emergency room, plus a dose of oral steroids and another medication just to get her bronchospasms to stop. She was coughing so hard she was vomiting at one point. And all that albuterol and steroids finally fixed it, but at a price.

Poor LR was so jeeped up, she couldn't sit still. She was wringing her hands and jumping all over the hospital bed. She nearly jumped out at one point - I barely caught her by one arm. Her heart raced, setting off all the heart rate alarms - up to 220 bpms at times. And still, she coughed. Finally, after about eight hours of this, her lungs relaxed. She was exhausted by all of this, but the alternative was not being able to breathe properly. I've had people suggest to me that perhaps there is an alternative way to treat this condition - that I should pursue a more homeopathic approach. I have researched those, but I have to say that when it comes to a basic function like breathing, I'm going to err on the side of caution and give her the medicine that she needs to keep doing it.

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