A smell of mucus caused a panic attack

Melody has got a cough. It is nothing unusual for the time of the year. She coughs, laughs and carries on. She doesn’t complain or moan, she doesn’t let it to slow her down.

The only reason I mentioned it is the outburst of emotions it caused in me. She knew nothing of it as she was fast asleep, with rosy cheeks and lips healthy red. I could only smell the mucus that caused her to cough every now and then and it unnerved me. My own breath was caught in my throat, my hands suddenly shaky. I noted her colour and breathing patterns, all healthy and unaffected. I stared at her, scared for her life.

I was taken back to PICU,

when Elisa was in medically induced coma and a machine breathed for her. She was unusually still, colour so pale, dark circles around her eyes. She made no sound while fighting for her life.

Instead of Elisa though, I saw Melody hooked up in those machines. In present I saw Melody breathing evenly, but in my minds eye I heard the sirens of an ambulance, the beeping sounds of hospital equipment. I smelled the hospital.

I concentrated to watch sleeping Melody’s even breath while I battled to get my emotions back in control.

My child may die before me

I have had to face the possibility of Elisa’s death many times already. We were lucky that she came out of my womb alive, we were lucky that she survived her first week after her birth. So often she has fought and survived, and I have been by her side urging her on.

If Elisa was to go to a hospital now,

I would bat an eyelid in annoyance. I wouldn’t be scared for her. We have taken Elisa to hospitals so many times that it is like taking her to see a dentist. It is nothing to be overly anxious about.

Looking at my sleeping youngest child though I found myself paralysed with fear, even though she had no temperature, she was breathing effortlessly and the only signs of a slight illness were a smell of mucus and a cough. I realised I had never prepared for her death. The mere idea of it had thrown me.

You can never be prepared for such things and I know I’m not prepared for Elisa’s either, I am only equipped to battle with her to keep her alive – but to do the same for the one child that has never been admitted to a hospital since her birth…

Being Elisa’s mum is so different than being mum to Melody

There are things that I do on auto-pilot with Elisa, things that would throw me straight out of balance if I had to do the same for Melody. I don’t hesitate to clear up Elisa’s sick, suction her mouth and check that her airways are clear. I don’t think twice for placing oxygen prongs on her or performing chest physio. When Melody is sick, I have caught myself being frozen, having to think what I need to do next.

Melody is my healthy child.

She is the child whose health I do not have to worry about. That is how I carry on in my every day life. Only a smell and a sound of a cough threw it all out and I was confronted with the possibility that this small normally abled child could fall seriously ill too. What would I do then?

I restricted myself

and didn’t allow myself to gather her close to myself and hug her tight – oblivious to my distress, she had only just fallen asleep. I swallowed my emotions and went back downstairs, where the child who I am used to seeing unwell was laughing and giggling in her room as her night carer was getting her ready to bed. I washed dishes and tried to make sense of these whirling feelings of mine but came in no conclusion.

Maybe it was a PTSD symptom?

Have you ever experienced anything similar?