learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Go Away, Croup and Humanity in the Hospital

J-bear is one of those unlucky kids who is susceptible to croup. His first run in with it was a week before his second birthday when he had to spend a night in the hospital because it took that long for the stridor (that awful barking cough sound) to calm the heck down. Breathing treatments, steroids, the works. This was before we knew he had autism and it was harrowing.

He’s had a few attacks since then, all minor and easily relieved with heavy steam and keeping him calm. Not so bad, right?

Then came Ninja Croup.

Seriously this came out of no where. Usually when the little guy gets sick, we get a shot across the bow of some sort. He’ll have a gagging episode of all mucous, he’ll be completely out of sorts, he’ll abruptly be lethargic… Something will tip the world off that there is something Not Right going on with him and the world may brace itself as it waits for the storm to break. This time whoever is in charge forgot to schedule the warning.

Last night, he went to sleep after a night of his usual playful antics. We played games with the exercise ball, goofed around the living room, did milk and cuddles and bedtime. 12:30am rolled around and all hell broke loose. He woke up coughing and hysterical, unable to be calmed. This is scary to all involved, in my opinion, as he has no way to articulate a single thing about what’s ailing him. It’s an elaborate guessing game that thankfully those who are closest to him are growing increasingly good at playing. He’s coughing, spiking a fever… then the barking started. Stridor. Croup. Damnit.

Tried steam, tried coaxing him into calm, tried giving him his dearly beloved ginky (pacifier)… Nothing helped. He choked up a healthy amount of mucous but still, no calm and he was fighting to breathe.

So off to the ER!

And that’s what drove me to write this post. The world didn’t need to know our saga of croup. The thoughts that brought me here are merely tied to that saga. 

There are some places in the world that are just unfortunately completely unfriendly to a child like J. The hospital, especially the emergency room, is near the top if not absolutely tops on that list. Bright, intrusive flourescent lights coupled with lots of foreign noises, strange people and repeated examinations… Oh, and the fact that they always want to put sticky things on him. That’s it. It’s hell on earth to the poor guy.

With the prevalence of autism increasing it seems by the day, you’d think there’d be more awareness in hospitals. Exactly one nurse who interacted with us took to hear that he does deal with autism and asked how best to approach him. What works? Is he okay with touch? How can we make this easier? She respected the bright lights in his exam room being turned off (ambient light from various monitors and the hall outside were more than enough) and just took great care with him. Everyone else was so hurried they ignored the person that is my son. They never mentioned what they were doing, just hastened through doing whatever they felt best and scurried along. It was hours before the kindly nurse realized the oversight and explained exactly what the plan for his care was, what had been done, and how long we’d be there.

He’s an almost 3 year old with limited language. I get that. But he’s human. He understands how you address and approach him with more clarity than he is given credit for. He was scared. He was sick. He needed their best compassion rather than impatience. I appreciate that one good nurse a great deal. J was delivered in that hospital and I know how amazing their nursing team can be… it just largely failed this little guy last night.

Anyway the little monster is home, recovering and showing signs of his usual self as it got closer to bedtime. Croup is a right bastard though and tends to get worse in the night so it remains to be seen how tonight and tomorrow night goes. The steroids should carry him through til tomorrow and allow his body to have had time to fight off the infection enough to avoid any more hospital runs.

Here’s hoping, anyway.


  1. Erin

    I so get this. My girl (also nonverbal) has recurrent bouts of croup with stridor. It is so hard when they are so little and vulnerable. I am glad you found at least one nurse who took the time to understand. I hope you get some sleep tonight. For us the steroids usually keep us in the clear for the second night. I hope that’s the case for your boy. Good luck!

    • nicole

      Doesn’t stridor sound like some malevolent soul living in a slimy sewer somewhere plotting evil? When they ever told me that term I thought they were being silly. Turns out, not so much! The first time he had croup back in June we were in the hospital about a day and it took two rounds of steroids in the hospital plus one 24 hours later (that was a total failed effort as it was a pill. HA!) to get him to breathe properly enough. Last night went pretty alright, thankfully, though today he woke up feverish and only wants to sleep. Weirdest case of croup yet!

      Thank you for taking the time to comment 🙂

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