Molly was diagnosed with Asthma when she was very young; the inhalers didn’t make much of a difference to her symptoms but once we got her reflux and delayed allergies sorted out she rarely coughed. Sure…If she got a cold then she used an inhaler but honestly it was low on our list of worries. My greater concern was her egg reaction, which seemed to be getting worse and worse as the years went on. It’s been such a low priority that I’ve often asked if she really is asthmatic? All of her spirometry tests have been normal. She even had a serious of tests at the Evelina clinic a few weeks ago and all was fine.
This is where allergies and asthma can really get you…the sudden extreme reaction without warning or expectation.
On Tuesday Molly had the HPV vaccine. She went to bed fine…she, like most of her classmates had, what in Canada we refer to as ‘the sniffles’. No biggie and we thought nothing of it.
Until the sudden barking sound from her bedroom. Honestly it sounded like a seal had been let loose in her room. She was out of bed, heading to the bathroom….coughing and coughing and coughing. She was a very pink colour but could talk, and explained that she woke up with phlegm in her throat and found it difficult to breath. We thought she’d clear it with coughing and be fine, but she wasn’t.
It soon became clear that this wasn’t going away. For my blog I’d looked into Asthma and what to do if someone is having an attack. And this is part of what frightens me – no doctor, or asthma nurse had ever gone through an emergency plan with us. I only knew what to do because I started an allergy blog.
We grabbed her inhaler and spacer (apparently we don’t have the right one for a 12 year old – it’s one for a child) – 10 puffs, 10 breaths and she felt better momentarily. But only for a bit. She could still talk in full sentences but was coughing and coughing in between.
We are in London, and a short drive from Chelsea and Westminster hospital. So with Julian driving, me in the back giving Molly another 10 puff, with 10 breaths in between off we dashed and within 10 minutes were at the hospital. At A&E we were ushered straight through, no waiting for our name to be called.
We started by half apologising for our arrival….’she’s coughing a lot’, ‘we’ve never seen her this colour’ we said. ‘Her asthma has never been a real problem but we came in anyway…’ I don’t know if it was a form of denial on our part – this can’t be happening, after all her asthma isn’t the big issue. We were assured we’d done the right thing by bringing her in.
Things quickly escalated – after a quick examination the nurse got a doctor. She administered another 10 puffs of Ventolin and listened to Molly’s chest. Then the senior consultant was called – it was agreed. There was no air circulation in the bottom part of Molly’s lungs. Her heart was, to quote the nurse, ‘pounding’ in her chest.
We starred in stunned silence as she was hooked up to a heart monitor. Not the little finger one – the proper patches on chest with wires version. A cannula was put in her hand – intravenous steroids administered. Eight tables of Prednisone were given, along with another steroid puffer that is only available for hospital use.
We were told that decisions would be made over the next thirty minutes as to what type of hospital bed she would be admitted to. The ‘normal’ teenage ward, or a ‘more monitored’ ward.
Shock is a strange emotion. We sat. We starred, wide eyed and mute while we held her hand and the seriousness of the situation started to sink in.
After 30 minutes we had ‘good news’ – they could hear wheezing in her chest. It meant admittance to a ‘normal’ bed. That was a relief – but I doubt is showed on our faces. We probably looked like a pair of stone statues. Molly was looking much better by this time; her colour was more normal and she was starting to chat happily and ask if she could have a book to read.
Julian went home and got our things. This is the point where I should say that my husband objects in the strongest way to the one parent rule. He would have loved to stay as well but rules is rules. I settled down in the pull out chair by Molly’s bed for the rest of the night. Every 2 hours she was woken, given Ventolin, blood pressure checked etc. I didn’t sleep – I just stared at her quietly. Lying down beside her then bolting upright to check she was okay. When Molly was little she had an endoscopy for her reflux. We were in hospital for a few days and she had nose and throat tubes hooked up to machines measuring the acid in her stomach. I thought that was bad. It was nothing. The general anaesthetic was nothing…nothing compared to this.
Over the next 24 hours the frequency of Ventolin was stretched until she had two four hour sessions with a clear chest and we got the go ahead to head home. At home we were on the weaning programme. Ventolin every 4 hours for a day, then every 6, then every 8. You get the idea.
Molly is now using puffers in the morning and evening only. She’s tired, she’s worn out and none of us are sleeping very well at the moment. You’d think exhaustion would take its toll, but it’s not as powerful as fear. The fear that something will go wrong in the night and I might miss it somehow. We’ve been thrown 11 years’ back in time, back to the time when she was little and couldn’t sleep due to her reflux. Back then we were checking to make sure she wasn’t vomiting; now we’re checking on her breathing. Each of us creeping into her bedroom late at night ‘just to check’. Both suppressing the panic we felt in hospital, both trying to reassure the other that everything is, actually, okay.
The consultant thought this would be a ‘one off’, apparently the hospital has a lot of children being admitted for breathing issues right now – something to do with the rapid change in temperature. I’ve looked on the NHS website and breathing problems are a rare side effect of the HPV vaccine. We’ve recorded it as such on the NHS’s yellow card system, and the school has fed back as well. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know if it was the vaccine or something else.
What I do know is this – she isn’t having the booster and we are booking an urgent asthma review with our GP. Molly will, from now on, carry her puffer everywhere she goes. And it’s time for me to call Asthma UK and talk this through with the experts: