Damn, kids get really sick

In my last blog, I wrote about the impacts, both positive and negative, of a car accident I was in when I was 17. My trauma was beyond difficult.  If you’re interested, you can find it on my website.  It’s titled, “Yep, I was only 17.”  In today’s blog, I look at how trauma related to KD’s birth and early childhood impacts me.


When KD was born, he spent 20 days in the NICU. And up until he was five, he coughed non-stop. It was the worst at night, and my wife and I barely slept and spent our lives in crisis mode. Antibiotics helped a little, but only for a day or two. We had a number of visits to the ICU, and the “experts” thought he had Cystic Fibrosis for a day or two. Miraculously, his doctor finally figured it out and he started a treatment regimen that actually worked, Although our family settled into a “new normal,”  my scars were there bright as day.

Fast forward four years: when I walked in the door last night, KD was sleeping but coughing non-stop, and my first thought was, “Oh crap, here we go.” The look on my wife’s face told me she’d already moved into trauma mode and done the regular stuff: inhaler, nose sprays, allergy medicine, humidifier and elevated his head. We added mattress elevation, air purifier, and rubbing his back, hoping he’d fall into a deeper sleep and stop coughing. And nothing worked.

With a big sigh I suited up for the last line of defense…20 minutes in the steam. Carrying sixty pounds of dead weight is a back breaker, but it would have been worth it if it worked. It didn’t. So I changed out of my sweaty clothes and settled in for a long night of no sleep.

It’s not a surprise that I’m a mess this morning from the trauma. I’m exhausted, irritable, on-edge, and having tons of “daymares.” With tears in my eyes, I’m remembering how the door of the bathroom and shower sounded at our old house when I closed it for the steam. I’m remembering how long it was until the tub filled and/or the hot water ran out. I’m remembering the sound of the shower curtain. I’m remembering where I kept my bag, so I was ready to head to the ICU.

When we have these sorts of feelings, it’s called being triggered. It’s a part of what’s known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Really bad stuff happened when KD was little, and I’m remembering it as if it’s happening right now. And believe me, this is horrible. As much as I’ve done a ton of emotional “work” and healed, my scars have broken open.

And this leaves me confused, and quite frankly kind of pissed off. Sure, last night was bad, but we’ve had other nights like this over the last couple of years. And since I really don’t have a ton of time or emotional energy, I want to stop the emotional merry go round and get curious about why I’m feeling so destabilized. “Why today?”

First, KD didn’t just get sick last night. His allergies are a mess, and he and I have been passing this cold back and forth for a week or so. No fever or throwing up; just a taste of everything else. Oh, and I have this desire to sleep 18 hours a day. Fortunately, I’m getting close to coming off the disabled list, but I’m not there yet. Conversely, KD is getting further and further away from good health, and the more he coughs and gets crabby and needy from sleep deprivation, the more anxious I feel.  And the anxiety from his repeated trauma is way too familiar.

On top of this, life outside the home is a bit more stressful than usual. As much as I absolutely LOVE being a therapist, I’m feeling a ton of pressure to be a successful small business owner. I’m busting my ass, despite not feeling all that well. I also have a few other situations that are pulling at my emotional energy. Quite frankly, they really aren’t a big deal, but they’re draining what little emotional energy I have left.

Now that I’m clear on why I’m feeling so emotionally triggered by remembering KD’s trauma, I want to look at ways I can cope. The first thing that comes to mind is acceptance. Things are what they are right now. And really they’re okay. KD went to school. It’s a half day and, even though it’s probably against our better judgment, we’re letting him do the “fun run” fundraiser he has been over the moon about. Maybe he’ll be even sicker tonight and tomorrow, but we’ll worry about that then. In this moment, everything is OK.

I’m also reassured by the fact that my wife is calling his doctor today to discuss his treatment regimen. I’ll spare the nitty-gritty, but we’re hoping he can help KD feel better. So, we’re advocating and taking action.

I’m also planning to do the self-care I always talk about. I’m taking a nap in a few minutes and plan on meditating and deep breathing as I fall asleep.  I’m still too sick to work out, but I know I can do some yoga. I’ve also heard that acupuncture helps speed-up the healing process, so I’m going to give that a try. And tomorrow, I’m hanging out with a therapist/friend who I hope is ready and able to do some listening.

And finally, I’m doing little things to help feel a bit more in-control. Sure, I’m anxious about KD’s health, and I’m not in control of when he’ll be better. But I can certainly do things that help me feel in-control. After I nap, I plan on scrubbing the toilet and sink. I’m good at these jobs, and doing them always helps me feel better.

So here’s my checklist: acceptance, action, self-care, and taking control where l can. I should feel calmer later today.

Now, it’s time for my nap.

For now, this parent, spouse, and therapist is staying out of the steam and scrubbing the bathroom and doing the best he can…


2 Responses to Damn, kids get really sick
  1. Celeste Tzikas
    April 29, 2017 | 2:52 pm

    I think what you are sharing is very important. Thank you. You are a person that naturally wants to enjoy, smile and laugh. KD will do better and we keep going. Self care is correct.

    • Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
      April 29, 2017 | 3:01 pm

      Thank-you for your kind words. KD is 9 and is and health is generally damn good. We are super lucky!

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