An Asthma Attack in a Three Year Old


This post is coming to you from the hospital. It’s a little after midnight, but Eva and I are awake and watching Frozen because the doctors and nurses are still doing a lot of work on her and she’s just about to start another breathing treatment. She’s over it. I’m over it. I can’t believe we’re here again.

She started getting sick on Sunday. We had just moved all of that furniture the day before, so when her nose started to run and her eyes started to water I thought it was all the dust stirred up in the air. On Monday she seemed a little sneezy and she was a bit more subdued but I still wasn’t sure if she was just having a prolonged allergy session. So, when she woke up today and she claimed that she was feeling better, I believed her because I’m an idiot and I took her to the park for a playdate first thing in the morning.

So, two things happened at the park. One was that she was obviously too worn out to be there about ten minutes after we got there, but we hung out for a while because I was mom chatting. The second thing is that there were sunflower shells near where we were sitting and I didn’t see them for a while, so that shouldn’t have been a problem but it ended up being a hazy question in the air (“Did she touch them? Is this weird mellow anaphylaxis?”) when she started having problems later.

After we came home from the park, I popped a movie in for her and let her chill on the couch. She fell asleep during that movie, woke up, and asked for another movie. Then I thought she fell asleep again but apparently she just glazed over and watched the menu for 30 minutes. When I realized that, I also saw that she was belly breathing very hard (retracting) and I could see her little ribs and the bones in her neck popping out even under the blanket. Her nostrils were also flaring and when I moved her she said, “Time for school? Did you pack a snack? Where’s Daddy?”

Retracting. Sucking. Flaring. Disorientation. Classic asthma attack. On the severe side.

I got her inhaler and gave her a couple of puffs, but it didn’t seem to do much and she stayed very out of it. I called the pediatrician, but of course the nurse had just stepped away from the desk and when she called back 45 minutes later, Eva was doing so much better. The nurse listened to her symptoms and told me to take her to the ER since the clinic had no more appointments for the day, but I waffled and waited another hour. She really did seem fine and she was sitting up and eating and laughing with her brother, so I called Kyle and I called my Mom and I called my stepmom and everyone reinforced that I was fine just waiting and watching.

Then she went downhill.

It happened fast. Her tummy started to look like it was working harder and then I saw her nostrils flaring again and her skin turned a weird grey color while her lips got really dark, like she’d been eating a raspberry popsicle. I threw the kids in the car and we came up to the ER.

They took her right back. They got her started on treatment immediately. They noted that I must have waited too long to medicate her. And every hurried movement and rushed order was just one more bit of reinforcement that I was wrong earlier when I didn’t bring her in. I was wrong when I didn’t check on her more during her movie marathon. I was wrong when I took her out to the park and had her run around. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.


We’re here for the night and they can’t give me a timeframe for when she’ll be released from the hospital. And she’s sort of fine, except they keep throwing scary numbers at me like “she’s an 8” when 10 is as bad as it gets and I have no idea if 8 is uncommon or what kind of awful is 9 and…my head just spins. I’m exhausted.

We’re so lucky to have great medical care and to not have to worry about how we’re going to pay for this or who’s going to watch Calvin or will they be able to treat her? I know how lucky we are.

Even so, Eva just asked for the three hundredth time if we can go home and I had to readjust her breathing mask and her IV and her pulse ox monitor with a big smile on my face and lie to her about how much fun we’re having in our “special hotel” watching the movies Daddy brought from home. She doesn’t say it, but she’s not having fun.

Me neither.


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  • Reply LIla

    You didn’t cause her asthma or her attack. Things happen and parents sometimes misinterpret that. You can’t beat yourself up because you don’t have Dr. House level medical analysis skills. Eva is ok, it will be ok! I was Eva as a child ( at least asthma wise) and I’m ok. You can’t know everything and no matter how knowledgeable you are about your child’s condition… stuff is going to go wrong. HUGS

    June 4, 2014 at 9:22 am
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      You’re another person that I had no idea had asthma! I’ll have to pump your mom for info.

      June 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm
  • Reply Amber

    I’m an asthma sufferer, and as a child I had it really really bad. I was at death’s door a few times, but it’s not my parents’ fault, like this isn’t YOURS. When you’re not the one feeling it, it’s hard not to assume all is well. It really is. Hell, I once blacked out in my driveway from lack of oxygen becauss I forgot my inhaler and stayed at work anyway. I was 23. So things happen. Horrifying and scary and you just feel so badly for your kids, but again, asthma and allergies are sneaky bastards. You did what seemed right, and it was reinforced by others, so it wasn’t like it was a decision you made lightly. Big hugs.

    June 4, 2014 at 9:54 am
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thank you! I hope your asthma is getting easier. I’ve had it lightly after exercising a few times and I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to have full on attacks come out of nowhere as an adult (with no helicopter mom hovering over you).

      June 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm
  • Reply Hope at Disneyland

    Poor buddy. I’m all teary reading this story. I hate when she gets sick. It’s so unfair. I seriously have no idea what an asthma attack looks like. When I was little they put me on a breathing machine a few times like that, but here I am a million years later without issues (knock on wood). I hope Eva feels better and can go home soon. Hugs to you all! <3

    June 4, 2014 at 4:24 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      I didn’t know you had a history of asthma. It’s weird, but now that this has happened to Eva, I feel like asthma stories are coming out of the woodwork. I guess it really was common even way back when!

      June 7, 2014 at 5:01 pm
  • Reply Eve

    I don’t know how you do it. I really don’t . You and Kyle are amazing to have endured all of these scary emergency hospital visits. As is Eva, of course. Love and light headed your way…

    June 5, 2014 at 1:11 am
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thank you!

      June 7, 2014 at 5:00 pm
  • Reply kristina

    Aw, bless her heart. Sigh. Sending you both big hugs and praying she’s doing better today. Have you ever tried using essential oils to help? I can add you to a Facebook group we have where you can learn more about them. My daughter has Type 1 diabetes and so when she gets sick it can be very scary and send her to the ER. We use the EO’s to help build her immune system and to help her stay healthy. We use them for so much actually and I know a lot of people have used them to help their child’s asthma with great success. I just wanted to mention that in case it could help! Hugs!!

    June 5, 2014 at 10:35 am
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      You know, I need to look more into essential oils. We took out all of our perfumes and home fragrances today, but I didn’t toss my oils because I’m confused about whether or not they’re a trigger. If they aren’t, I’d be thrilled to explore some more to see what can help the kids!

      June 7, 2014 at 5:00 pm
  • Reply Nicole Elliott

    ((hugs)) my little guy ended up being life flighted with RSV as a wee baby. It’s SO easy to beat yourself up as a parent, but don’t allow yourself to. You are a good mommy because you called, you took her in, she is safe <3 I still get chills from almost losing my precious little guy, but don't allow myself to beat myself up over it. I did what I thought was best–and hopefully by sharing our stories we can help other parents to know to NEVER wait!!! Here's my story:

    July 22, 2014 at 5:08 pm
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