Two years ago, after four rounds of bronchitis and four chest x-ray sessions in a matter of 2 months, Ryley was diagnosed with reactive airway disease. Eight months later, he was finally diagnosed as an asthmatic. At first I was a little freaked. And I was sad. It reminded me once again that Ryley always will be a preemie and that prematurity does rear its ugly head years after leaving the NICU.
For the past 18 months, Ryley has done so much better with his colds and respiratory response to colds. This year especially has been really good to him. He had one little battle where we gave him his rescue inhaler for 12 hours, and the cough was gone the next day. But at 2:30 this morning, I heard a sound I hadn’t heard in almost two years…..that dry, rough, barking cough. We got his inhaler right away, and dosed him. He slept the rest of the night without anymore coughing fits. He is running a fever, but Motrin took care of that. Today, he looks so pale. And he’s barely above the red zone on his peak flow meter – a place he hasn’t been in over a year. I’m definitely keeping a close eye. We’ll have the albuterol all day today, and I’ll be checking his peak flow every hour on the hour. I’m just not taking any chances at this point.
Sometimes, you get complacent. Sometimes, you can almost let yourself forget that the effects of an arrival at 26 weeks will not go away after three, five, or even six years. Sometimes you forget that scars on tiny lungs will not just go away. At least sometimes I forget these things. We are six years removed from the NICU. At age 3, Ryley was “developmentally caught up” in all major areas. He has been healthy and active. The asthma diagnosis really came as no surprise. I was panicked a bit, but then settled into doing what we needed to do everyday to keep him healthy. And it has worked. Sometimes, prematurity comes back to smack you in the face.
So today we’re home. He is snuggled under a blanket on the couch, watching movies. We’re hitting the albuterol every 20 minutes now. He hit the red zone. His fever is back up. He’s wheezing – something he’s never really done. His respiratory rate is up, his heart is pounding. I have a call into the doctor now. Amazing how it all comes back. Amazing that six years later, we’re still not completely beyond the reach of his premature birth. I’ve let myself believe we were one of the “lucky ones”. We are, but we are not completely unscathed and I had somehow made myself believe that we were. Just one more reminder that you can’t come into this world 14 weeks early, spend 93 days in the NICU and not have some after-effects hang around for years to come.