We were in Florida. My husband’s brother was having a destination wedding. The timing was good for us as we were desperate for a break after a long and hard few months. Croup had been ruling our lives. Well, not exactly croup, but we thought it was at the time. Our oldest had this horrible bark-like cough he couldn’t kick. It was loud, it was annoying and it caused him to continually go into respiratory distress. 10 times in less than 13 months to be exact. They kept putting him on steroids each time and it helped the immediate distress. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep it from coming back. Three specialists later and I don’t know how many tests, infection was ruled out as the cause. It was not Croup. Asthma had also been ruled out. So, in what the respirologist would call a “hail marry” attempt to help him breath, we tried a steroidal inhaler. The main goal in this idea, was to give him some symptom relief until we could get to the bottom of it. The downside was that even if it would work, it would take two weeks to build up in his system and see any meaningful changes. So almost exactly two weeks later we found ourselves in Florida, holding our breath and hoping against all odds we could avoid the ER.
It was a perfect spring day. Not hot, not cold, and there was a soft warm breeze coming off the ocean. It was noon and the kid’s nap time. My husband and I could not stand to sit inside on such a glorious day, so we put the kids in the stroller and took them for a walk while they slept. An hour later our oldest woke up. “I want out!” He declared as he tried to free himself from his buckles. We took him out and my husband immediately popped my 3 year old on his shoulders. He loves Dad’s shoulders. Not only are they high up and fun, but let him have the joy of a walk without stressing his lungs and legs. It is his favourite place to sit, and whenever he was not on them, he would say “up dad, up. Pleeeease”. So today, we were both surprised when he said “no dad, I want down. I want to walk.”
My husband took him off his shoulders and let my son walk. Before we knew it the two of them were having races down the path. 25 minutes went by and he was still running and laughing. I kept warning my husband to stop as soon as he started coughing, but the cough never came. He just ran. Free and happy, he wouldn’t stop. My husband laughed and commented that he didn’t think he’d ever seen him run that long in his whole life. I was 100% sure he was right. My little man had never been able to run without coughing and gasping for air. Not ever. Now that I could see it was possible, I felt a warm sense of relief wash over me. It was amazing. I wondered what on earth could cause his symptoms if not asthma or infection?
In the months to follow we would learn that it was GERD caused by his dystonia. He was inhaling stomach acid, and his lungs we sore and swollen. But, right then, on that bike path, I didn’t know the cause, and I found myself deep in thought pondering the issue.
I was jolted out of my train of thought by my son’s little hand tugging at my pant leg. “mama, mama” he said. I looked down at him and his face was flushed and full of joy. He was sweaty and he was happy. Deeply happy. There was no denying the smile on his face. “What’s up buddy?” I asked him. His reply took my breath away, “Mama! I can breath!” I smiled at him as I tried to hide the tears of happiness that I felt welling up behind my eyes. “That’s great buddy!” was all I could say before he took off running again. It was fun to watch him run with the reckless abandon of someone that had no worries and nowhere to go. There was an unadulterated joy on his face and it brought peace to my soul.
I knew we still had a long way to go, but on that march day in Florida, I didn’t care. My baby could breath and I was happy. I sat down on the side of the path, and I watched my little boy run.