Far away from any brush fire, in the middle of Los Angeles, I sit on the 31st floor seeing smoke on the horizon in every direction. Yesterday morning I woke up to dry hot winds and said "This is my least favorite weather." The Santa Ana winds and accompanied fires bring back childhood memories of Halloween asthma attacks and the local emergency room. Because we lived in a small valley surrounded by brush, wildfires often raged around us through the fall months. For some reason, I strongly associate these with Halloween, even though logically I know there were only select years of the hills burning on Halloween. A couple years brought a "ring of fire"- we would be unable to come or go from our little city until the fires were contained. The smoke would settle on the valley floor, creating the most miserable conditions I could imagine when it came to my asthma. There was always a question on Halloween whether or not I would be breathing well enough to go trick-or-treating, or instead would spend the evening handing out candy in my costume, pretending that I felt just fine. Fortunately, I have no recollection of ever missing out on begging for candy door to door, but it was a concern most years. Generally, I would spend the day resting in my parents' bed, watching tv, while my mom came in periodically to give me medicine and check on me. It would feel like I had a steel beam sitting on my chest, constricting my lungs, causing pain and sapping me of all energy. From a child's perspective, that is no reason to miss out on trick-or-treats, and I would put on a great act of recovery in order ease my parents' minds about letting me go out. The prize: a pillow case full of candy. The price: being absolutely miserable, and possibly in the emergency the next day.
Now as a parent, I am gaining a new perspective. Waking up to those winds yesterday, my first thought was not about my own shortness of breath, but about the wheezing I knew I would hear from Logan. Sure enough, he was coughing and wheezing, even though he wasn't complaining at all. Never does. At only 2 years old, he already has some sense that he might miss something if he doesn't feel well. As the smoke hovered in the air I couldn't help but feel so bad for that little boy trying to push air into those little lungs that are already polluted with smoke particles. Yes, I am being slightly dramatic here as a) the smoke wasn't so thick where we were, and b) he really was acting fine. However, my memories of those times are terribly vivid and it pains me to think of him suffering in the same way. Fillip tends to look at him and say that he seems just fine so I shouldn't worry. Probably, he is right. However, from personal experience I do know that being short of breath is no barrier to running around, playing and doing all those typical kid things. A kid will just keep on doing those things despite the discomfort. When I finally would get to the point where I was visibly laboring or despondant, that asthma would have a vise grip on my lungs that was not easily loosened. When Logan got sick enough to be admitted to the hospital earlier this year, neither of us picked up on it until he was nearly blue and completely limp. He has gone to school, and even his teachers weren't concerned until he was in really terrible shape. He will run around until he simply can't. That is what worries me.
The bright side is, we already have an arsenal of weapons for fighting his asthma attacks. The pediatrician has given very clear instructions on when to start up those breathing treatments again (Now!), when to double up medications and how to keep him comfortable. This little guy is benefitting by years more of medical research than I had at hand. Hopefully, my memories of those times are also a help, letting me be in tune with his breathing patterns, and sensitive to his discomfort. Hopefully, we can keep it all under control, and he never has a memory of going to the ER to get some relief in a cold, sterile place. Today he is closer to these fires than I am. I am guessing the smoke is heavy in the air and noticeable with every breath. I have to get through my day with the faith that he is getting along just fine, or that we just start up meds when we get home. It seems that some of the wisdom I gain in parenting every day is to know when to swallow the worry and let him guide me. I know this- I never regretted one trick-or-treat, no matter how bad the breathing got. Never. It's that vivid memory of childhood that now needs to work to our benefit.