The germ season is something you may or may not know about. There are lots of reasons why you may know and dread it. Mine is because we have children with low immune systems. If you don’t know about germ season and don’t dread it I envy you. I have found recently that it is quite an emotive subject with people. It seems everyone has an opinion on the topic and to my surprise it varies greatly. My working background has always been a Nurse. So therefore, it makes total sense to me to stay home when you or your child are sick with potentially infectious viruses. I have always known this but until Ailbe came along I never truly understood the consequences of it.
I understand it now and give it the true respect it deserves which is born from fear. Fear that your baby might end up in hospital which then turns into a hospital stay. You then as a parent are sat on a hospital ward watching over your baby/child feeling helpless. Unable to do anything except let the health professionals do their job at keeping your child alive. That stark clinical scary environment soon becomes normal and the staff familiar. They greet you with smiles and reassurance as you sit there worrying about everything. Racking your brain to remember all the details that you will be questioned on.
Our first hospital admission was very traumatic, Ailbe was approximately 9 weeks old and he had been feeling “not quite right” at home with a cold. As this was all new to us. I guess we let the symptoms get worse before accessing help so therefore Ailbe was worse.
On this night we put him to bed and he was his usual self with a little cough. In the early hours of the morning, Kyle and I woke up to Ailbe coughing non stop. At first we picked him up giving him a cuddle and tried a feed. He didn’t settle and continued to cough. The cough continued so we called 111 and it was during this call that our situation was worse than we realised.
The operator called an ambulance. Whilst waiting for the ambulance I had managed to settle Ailbe. As the paramedic walked in I started to apologise saying “typical he is falling asleep just as you get here” but the paramedic realised that Ailbe wasn’t just settling and after taking some oxygen levels and monitoring she tried in her best manner and voice not to alarm us. We needed to get Ailbe to hospital straight away.
Suddenly everything became serious. Ailbe had an oxygen mask on and she was ushering us into the ambulance. I lay on the bed with Ailbe in my arms with this paramedic fussing like an anxious bee around us. I think it was 4am and we were flying through the streets with blue lights. She kept checking on Ailbe who kept trying to go to sleep. In what is only a 15 minute drive to hospital she called the hospital to notify them that they needed to have a paediatric team waiting. The one thing she said that never leaves me is “If he drifts off to sleep again I will have to help him breathe”
This was all unfolding as we sped through the quiet streets as I was desperately trying to stay on the bed and keep Ailbe from falling. As we approached the hospital she said “when we get there I am just going to take Ailbe from you to the doctors waiting as he is really poorly and they need to look at him straight away” and with that we pulled up and she ran off with my baby to a full medical team waiting at the doors. No wait in an ambulance line or sit in a cubicle waiting your turn to be seen.
Despite all my Nursing background I just stood there holding his red book. Watching as they swarmed around my little baby hearing a doctor ask me if he is usually this mottled. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t think, all I could do was stand there feeling helpless and scared. Suddenly looking at Ailbe whose tiny chest was going up and down really fast, he was very pale and blotchy all over. The nurse asked the doctor how long to give the antibiotic over a period of time? the doctor said “I need to push this through right now, we can’t afford to wait”
Then after what seems like a lifetime they got him stable. We were moved onto the children ward and that was my first visit with Ailbe. It wouldn’t be his last in fact he would have another 6 admission before he was 10 months old. Not every admission was this dramatic but they all were the same; terrifying.
We are now in our second “germ season”. Ailbe is on a regular antibiotic to help boost his immune system, he takes this October to March. This seems to work quite well. However, that fear never leaves you. I hate how it actually influences our lives. Worrying about Ailbe getting sick from being in the supermarket, or out shopping, even simply from his older siblings being at school around sick bugs. I know it’s not normal to have a oximeter and hand-held nebuliser at home for when your child is poorly but for us its a life line.
Thankfully, Ailbe is physically stronger now than in those early days. We, as parents are more aware of early warning signs and when to access help. One of the biggest impacts that gets forgotten about is how these hospital admissions affect our other children. The countless times that they have woken up to find mummy & baby brother not there, or come home from school to find we are in hospital. Our last admission with Ailbe was on Christmas Day and it lasted 2 weeks, during this 2 week period Conor and Saoirse spent every day/night with either mummy or daddy at hospital with Ailbe. So when School started back and all the kids were talking about their christmas holiday excitedly, Conor & Saoirse weren’t able to share in this. Not because we made their holiday miserable. We tried everything to make it as normal and happy as possible. Not once, did either of them complain about it.