Sometimes a Cold is Just a Cold

In kids who are chronically sick, it’s never that simple

I woke to a groan, the muffled sound of coughing barely discernible.

Logan and his string

Logan was home sick for two days, only going back to school on Wednesday. He was just as eager to play, even though his breathing sounded horrible. His string was as fascinating as always!

The groan was from my husband. The wet-sounding cough, interspersed with soft nonsensical ramblings, came from the kitchen, and was Logan’s wake-up call a few nights ago. Ear attuned to the shuffling as he moved closer to our bedroom door, I nudged my husband and we decided, in a split second meeting of eyes, to see just how sick the little guy was.

He was fine hours earlier as he and his brothers laid down for the night. Now, at two-something in the morning, I listened to the almost lyrical quality of his talking in between the the soft shuffling and congested breathing. It’s amazing how much a child who doesn’t speak can talk.

In less than a minute, his disheveled form appeared framed in the light from the bathroom, hair glowing like fire in a ring around his head. I can wax poetic now, but at the moment I remember looking at the not-so-poetic and quite disgusting green slime smeared across his cheek and still edging, dripping, downward. Snot just isn’t pretty. When it’s colorful, it’s generally a bad portent of sleepless nights, fevers, labored breathing, and even the odd break-through seizure (or a dozen, but who’s counting?).

Fast forward to this morning, and there was a meeting of the eyes again. This time, my husband and I agreed, the cold had done its worst and Logan, thank God, was well enough to go to school. He tends to become more rambunctious when sick, rather than sleepy and still. For the sleep-deprived parent, a rambunctious Logan, sick or not, tends to become a blur of motion and energy which, in my very humble opinion, sicks kids should not have.

What’s the big deal you ask? It’s just a cold. 

That’s just it. A cold is hardly ever just a cold in our house. Logan, who tends to catch colds often, has breathing difficulties when he’s sick. When Logan has a hard time breathing it leads to breathing treatments and seizures. His asthma hasn’t actually flared up for a while now. Which is amazing considering how often the child has had colds so far this year. The seizures, though, have been particularly brutal over the last several months, only slowing in intensity over the last few weeks.

Still, it’s just a cold.

Not when your kid has epilepsy

For Logan, and for lots of kids with epilepsy (as well as lots of kids with other special needs), being sick with even a simple cold can lower his  seizure threshold enough to make having a seizure more possible. A seizure threshold is just the point at which one person might have a seizure ( Many times, Logan has had one of his “seizure days” because of a simple cold.  A seizure day, for Logan, means that he has continual seizures, spread just far enough apart that giving him rescue medicine isn’t always advisable. Sometimes these are absence seizures, or petite mals. Other times, they are grand mals. In other words, sometimes he just stares off for a few seconds or minutes, and sometimes his body goes into convulsions and he stops breathing.

Have I mentioned that I hate the color blue? Since the first time I had to give Logan emergency CPR (which was more rescue breathing, since his heart was still beating –I checked) because he wasn’t breathing during a seizure, I have hated the color blue. To me–it always brings to mind my child, on the floor, a pale blueish gray, unmoving and nonreactive and moments away from death.

I like that rosy hue, not pink but just a little bit duskier, that signifies my kid is breathing again, that signifies that he lives. I know, I’m a little weird that way.

When a cold isn’t simple

When your kid gets sick easily, and when getting sick means they have seizures, and when having seizures means they tend to stop breathing? That’s when a cold ceases to be a simple cold. Which brings us to another sad, but wonderful fact. When your child is sick, and he tends to have that seizure, the one where he stops breathing, anytime he’s sick … when that child gets sick but it really is just a cold? It’s a rare and wonderful occurence.

This morning my husband and I anxiously listened to Logan breathing, studied his pupils until his eyes blurred indistinctively, and pronounced him fit enough to go to school. While I stumbled to the computer afterward, my husband stumbled to bed. Sleep deprivation is only fun for so long, after all.

In honor of parents everywhere, who watch the sniffles for reasons other than trying to tell what color the snot is.

This is National Epilepsy Week, so read a little more about epilepsy and think of someone you know (or think of a stranger, like Logan). Epilepsy, like most special needs, is never a diagnosis in and of itself. 

With thanks to Rob Gorski, from the Lost and Tired blog, for taking the time read this ahead of time. And with thanks to Francesca. 

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Filed under Family, Parenting, Seizures, Special Needs

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