I’m afraid of the dark but probably not for reasons that you might think. Sometimes the dark digs down and awakens a fear in me. It is the worst kind of fear, but one that I know very well. Every once in a while, there is a monster that comes out at night at our house. Only once the house is quiet and it’s deep, dark night does this monster rear its head. The monster is croup and around here we know him well.
You see, croup has caused us more than our fair share of worry. What is normally a harmless childhood illness has sent us to the hospital more times than I can count. It has resulted in a 911 call and an ambulance at our house – also more times than I can count. And one summer night, it almost took the life of my little ray of sunshine, Son-F; that monster did it’s best to steal every last breath from him. To this day – more than two years later – every siren I hear, every ambulance and fire truck we pass by on the street, reminds me of that night.
The signs are very subtle. Mr. Family Nature and I just know when it’s coming. It’s hard to describe, it’s the way he breathes, the slightest hoarseness to his voice and just a feeling that we get when we know it’s going to be a long night. It’s virtually impossible for a doctor to detect during the day but despite how subtle the symptoms, to us they are unmistakable. We know.
On those nights when we know it’s coming, we do our best to prepare and then we wait. We have our tools and tricks to keep the monster at bay. If we think it’s going to be a particularly bad night we lay out clothes, pack a hospital bag and make sure the phone is close by so that if we need to, we can be out the door quickly. They we go to bed. We fall asleep with difficulty, as we listen for every little peep in the night.
Someone stirs, I am jolted awake. A cough gives me butterflies. I hear that croupy, barky, stridor sound and my stomach lurches. I struggle to keep calm. I have to tell myself to breathe deeply; to relax my muscles; to stop clenching my teeth. We do everything we can to fight the monster and we pray for morning. I am never so happy to see sunlight. Once the morning comes, the monster is gone until next time, when he comes again in the night.