Daily Operation

Bronchiolitis: One-Way Ticket to Suck City, Pt. 1

So we’re in the hospital. It’s, uh, now 10:27am. April 4th. The Sox are in last place. The Orioles are in first. And if that’s not weird enough, Ellison was gunning for that number one ranking on highest blood temperature when she pinned a 102.8° almost surpassing Parker’s (the Poo-Poo Pointer) high mark of 103° set about a year ago.

This story, however, really begins back in January.

In January, a seemingly healthy and knockout gorgeous Ellison started developing a pretty nasty rattle in her breathing. In fact, it all came to a head (and then out the head a couple of times) where that rattle turned into explosive vomiting. Now, when it all hits the fan and you’re a new parent, you’re ability to determine causation is minimal. You tend to rely heavily on the assistance of a pediatrician or specialist to walk you to some conclusions. The rattling in her chest and the vomiting may or may not have been related, but the best guess of the doctor at the time was that the vomiting wasn’t her saying that she’s tired of eating that nasty crap. Nope. It was her way of saying that the mucous buildup in her lungs and air passages was causing her to choke and, sometimes, that mucous was moving into her belly and, like someone throwing a gas can onto smoldering embers. Explosion. Upward. Outward. Big boo boo.

It’s a condition called bronchiolitis. Now, don’t be mistaken: bronchitis is different from bronchiolitis. The main difference is bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchi. Bronchiolitis is the inflammation of the bronchioles. You should’ve been in the backseat listening to me try to explain the differences between the two to my mother earlier as I was flying down I40 on an errand home. I think I was trying to tell her the difference was one was in relation to and the other was the direct reference to. It was stupid. I was just talking out of my ass. Something my lovely wife is familiar with me doing. Here’s a diagram (not of me talking out of my ass). And, no, this is not Ellison.

And the diagram is slightly inaccurate because the kid’s sleeping and I can guarantee you that sleeping is a rarity when your child is suffering from bronchiolitis. They don’t sleep. They just wait with their eyes closed for the next coughing fit. That’s the honest-to-God truth. And, if they don’t sleep, you ain’t sleeping. So the hair-raising screams, projectile vomiting and death rattles is bronchiolitis. Since I’m not a pediatrician, I found this a suitable answer to our concerns. It has a name. One that I can pronounce and relay to family. Sometimes that and a couple of treatment options is all you’re looking for as a parent. Especially after enduring the 8th chamber of hell that is also known as colic.

We’re told that she’s going to need to get on breathing treatments. Don’t know what that entails, but figuring she has to exhale something. Turns out the piece of equipment is called a nebulizer which kinda sounds like some sort of weapon that you use on large animals to pulverize them into a little pile of ash…not something that you’d feel comfortable attaching to your baby’s face like a freaking muzzle. We were given one of these WMDs by a medical supply company. And if the fact that it’s called a nebulizer isn’t daunting enough, we got one fashioned after a freaking dragon. What could be more discomforting to a four-month old baby?

What’s worse is when you fire this thing up is sounds like a freaking lawnmower and then you’re supposed to position it up right over the baby’s nose and mouth while it gasses her full of different vaporized drugs. It feels like you’re hurting her your putting her to sleep like an old dog. I hate administering it. She hates it too. She’s gasping for air usually and the entire five to ten minutes is like an heavyweight bout. She’s kicking, flailing and swiping at the mask with her hands trying to slap it away. She’s a freaking champ, I tell ya.

So, enduring that four to five times a day is absolutely blast. Fun stuff. We put it into our regimen. Did it faithfully. Week later, there’s a slight improvement in Ellison’s condition. Pathways sound a little clearer. No more powering pea soup across the room like a fire hydrant. A week later, she’s coughing and hacking. Sick again.

This time I take her back into the pediatrician. The doctor (not our pediatrician) tells me, “She’s RSV negative, but she’s got what we call bronchiolitis.” I told her that I was aware of this because last time we were in they told us the same thing. We’ve been administering the medicines through a nebulizer. She’s on antibiotics. We’ve been following the rules like a good family and yet we’re still dealing with the coughing and hacking. She says, “The best I can tell you is that we can refill your medicine and you can keep doing the nebulizer. That will help more than anything else. And make sure that you’re clearing out her nose with a bulb syringe.” Okay. Back to the mill. With no better advice than we got before. Just a refilled prescription and a reminder about pulling as much snot as we can out with the bulb syringe. $25 please, sir.

The bulb syringe is an important piece of the puzzle. Essentially, babies can get rid of mucous three ways. By vomiting it up (since they don’t know how to hock a loogie and let ‘er fly yet…we’re working on that), poop it into their diapers (you’ll know it when you see it) or you can do it like a SWAT team. “If you don’t come out, sir, then we’re gonna have to come in and make you come out.” Armed with your bulb syringe and a small bottle of saline, you work as much of that snot out of her as you can. I was talking to our rad respiratory nurse here in the hospital and he told me that some hospitals extract fluids during surgery still using a siphon. Now I don’t know what kinda fluids they’d be extracting, but if you’re using a siphon, there’s a very fine margin for error.

Anyhow, we go back home. Do it again for another week or so. Still no relief. More coughing. Sleepless nights. Nothing’s getting better. Now, nearing wits’ end, I go back in with Ellison in tow ready to lay it out there for our pediatrician. I had the entire speech ready in my head. It sounded something like this:

Okay, we’ve done everything that you wanted us to do. We’ve been doing the nebulizer and the albuterol, the antibiotics, the bulb syringe and cleaning out her nostrils. We’ve seen no relief at all. She’s miserable and barely sleeping and frankly we’re getting very frustrated with going through this crap over and over again. I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. It’s like I’m on a really big hamster wheel and every time we come in here you ask the same stupid questions and I answer with the same stupid answers and you give us the same freaking diagnoses yet we’re not getting anywhere. Ellison’s still sick. I’m losing $25 at a time and the situation is not improving. So don’t you dare tell me it’s bronchiolitis again. Tell me it’s allergies. Tell me it’s a cold. Tell me it’s influenza, but I can’t hear that it’s bronchiolitis again or I’m gonna lose my freaking mind and ram my head through that wall over there just to know I’m alive.

“Sir, it appears that this is bronchiolitis.”

I gave her the Readers’ Digest version. “So why is not getting better if we do everything that you’re asking us to do?” I’m doing everything in my power to remain reasonable. Objective.

The second the doctor started talking, I blacked out. I couldn’t even hear her. It was like she dropped everything and started playing a clarinet. I just sat there and stared at the floor. This was like some bad dream.

“Are we sure this isn’t asthma?”

“Are we sure she’s RSV negative?”

“Are we sure there’s not something else we need to try?”

“Why do you keep answering my questions like a droid?”

“Why are you acting like this is our first time in the office?”


Sent away like a bad kid leaving the principal’s office. With another prescription in hand…this time for something new that’s rarely prescribed, but given the severity of her bronchiolitis, it was worth a shot. Since I’m only a once-every-ten-years patient to a hospital, doctor’s office or infirmary, I take it and get it filled because I’m a good boy.

When I get home, my lovely wife barks at me saying that there’s no way in hell she’s giving her medicine because it’s got some weird something in it that I didn’t recognize (obviously) but that she knew to be something that she did not want to give Ellison. She just informed me it was “pseudoephedrine” for all of those in the know.

Once again, Daddy feels stupid. Got a prescription filled that got the “you trying to kill her?” reaction from my lovely wife. Stupid dad. Stupid stupid dad.

It’s now 22 hours later. Gonna go retrieve some coffee since the bad water they served me earlier didn’t really do the trick. We’ll continue this later.


2 thoughts on “Bronchiolitis: One-Way Ticket to Suck City, Pt. 1

  1. So sorry. Ellison is on my prayer list. Breathing problems are no fun. I suffered from asthma for my entire childhood. Had Bronchitis and Bronchiolitis….and it was because I we had cats in the house. Stupid cats.
    Took many trips to the ER.
    The nebulizer always did the trick for me, even though it made me feel like my heart was beating 100times faster than normal.

  2. allison says:

    I have no advice for you only a thank you. My son was diagnosed with this a week ago and its making me crazy with worry and frustration. Reading this put my mind at ease for a few things and i appreciated your humour! Sometimes you just have to laugh at situations like this or it will get the best of you. I guess i could look back at the break-down i had infront of the docs reptionist the other day and laugh… in a few months lol i really hope Ellison gets well soon! Thanks again!

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