Friday, January 09, 2009

Have you ever seen how they keep a 6-month old infant still for a chest x-ray? It's this contraption that looks a bit like a clear plastic corset, with the sides on hinges, and you have to hold the baby's arms up over her head, then they swing the sides together so that she's trapped there, with her elbows at her earlobes, until the tech takes the picture.

And I had to help get her in there, then go behind the barrier with the tech until they snapped her pic. That may have been the least fun I've ever had as a parent so far.

On the bright side, her lungs are fairly clear, and there's no sign that the respiratory ick that landed one of her classmates in the hospital is taking that severe a turn in her. Not that it's going to stop me from worrying.

There's a David Bottoms poem in his anthology Vagrant Grace about sitting outside his daughter's room, trying to read a book on the Civil War while listening to her breathing as she tries to sleep while fighting bronchitis. The whole thing is worth reading, but the opening stanza will give you a taste:
Rough sleep from the room across the hall.
Mouth open, my daughter breathes the little noise of wheels
on dry axles. I've cut the ceiling fan
to hear her, but rain intrudes against the house,
along with something quieter
and more disquieting,
some muffled trudge
like soldiers crossing our soggy yard,
ghosting cannons east again toward Kennesaw.
I first read it years ago, and admired the craft of it, the layering of feeling and experience, both first and third-hand. But it has literally been years since I've read it, and last night it came back to me hard as my daughter slept, upright against my chest so she wouldn't cough, and I wondered at the cruelty of littering our literature with dead mothers and broken children, the canon like a Chinese menu of heartbreak, so I can't even get through the Muppet Christmas Carol without tearing up at the death of Tiny Tim.

So, anyway, she's fine, mostly. The doctor just called, and it's not pneumonia, just bronchiolitis. This is the 21st century, and there's so much more we can do than hold her hand and hope she gets over it, especially when the hospital is just down the road. But I'm not sure it feels that different to a scared parent listening to their child's chest rattle in the middle of the night.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Oh, it's a total medieval contraption, is it not?! I was horrified when I had to get Ella x-rayed in that thing... I still have the images burned in my head of her trapped in there with arms raised helplessly, screaming, and looking at me pitifully. I'm glad she's feeling better now.