It is past 1 a.m. and I’ve never felt colder. I am sitting on my youngest son’s bed, caressing the contour of his tiny body with my eyes and listening to him breathe.
In and out, his breathing is a bit raspy and irregular but slowly easing into a smoother, more regular pattern as the time drags its feet toward 2 a.m. The day of dread is behind us but here we are, still plagued by its shadow.
We are in the children’s ward at the Royal Inland Hospital after a severe asthma attack that made me aware once again of how precious the ability to breathe is.
The city is asleep and sprawled like a lazy sparkling blanket all over the hills. I think of all the people who sleep peacefully, breathing without gasping or attached to machines that scream when numbers get too low.
I would trade with my son, if I could; take the struggle from a body that’s too little and frail at this point to handle it, and make it mine forever. Somehow it is, because a child’s suffering is the parent’s as well.
This has been my son’s most-severe asthma attack so far. He is seven. The attack brought emergency crews to our door and inside our home, and they brought with them smiles, kindness, reassurance, amid the oxygen tanks and defibrillators.
They offered the gift of breathing to my son. They gave us facts and good, solid guidance toward a safer place, for what it is, for what’s to come.
A child’s chronic affliction can throw parents into the darkest pit of despair. My son’s is the kind that makes his life depend on a puffer. There are many children like him, some worse and all hoping for relief.
In a world that’s increasingly polluted and assaulted by airborne particles that can wreak havoc with fragile respiratory systems, the need for environmental assessment objectiveness becomes a must.
Tonight made it real for us like never before. To be in a vulnerable position means you do not have all answers and no magic wand to make things better. It means you rely on the community you belong to for help.
There was sureness in the way our desperate situation was handled; every step was explained and punctuated with a reassuring gaze — as it should be.
To trust the community you are in is a powerful feeling. To know that your child is being taken care of when your arms get weary, that is a gift each parent should get to know the texture of.
With industrial prospects looming in Kamloops, we need to trust that the ones in charge will never put anyone’s health at risk. Watching out for each other is what people do in a community.
The clock shows 3 a.m. when I finally lay down to sleep. I am beyond grateful for soft, regular breathing; beyond tired after a day of struggling with demons I hope I will never see again; beyond scared that I might; and, above all, humbled by the fragility of what we so often take for granted.
In the morning we will go home, pending high oxygen saturation levels they said and steady breathing. Two checkups later, we find the nearest exit and try not to look back; piggyback to the car with little arms around my neck, knowing there is no letting go.
After we got home our nonagenarian amazing neighbour makes her way across the street with a plate of lemon butter tarts — the gift of being taken care of by the community continues.
Gratefulness is a beautiful feeling that invites giving — the only way we can make it work.
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