Tag Archives: asthma

Astrid – Why, Why, Why?

Family Day Fun

It started suddenly without warning and has been a non-stop barrage since. On February 18, Astrid asked her first “Why?” question. I don’t remember what it was about but my response was promptly followed by a follow-up “Why?”. As many parents know, “Why?” is the perfect question because no matter how thorough the answer, you can always go deeper with another “Why?”.

I like encouraging her curiosity and answer as much as I can, but after the 5th why I usually have to respond with “Why do you think?”

Snow What!?

February was an unusually snowy month in Vancouver, including a full-on Snow Day on February 12 when all the schools and daycares shut down. It was cool to see all the kids running around the neighbourhood and enjoying a rare blast of real Canadian winter.

Crazy Carpet

Too bad Astrid hated it. The snow was too ‘crunchy’ and cold and she would only watch her friends tobogganing, complaining the whole time.

Cookies

In January Astrid started on a new asthma medication, Advair, and it seems to be having a huge impact. We’ve now gone 45 days without any asthma symptoms, which is a new record. Astrid had one cold in early March and even though she was coughing she never got wheezy. It was nice just having a normal sick kid with a runny nose without worrying about when we would have to take her to the hospital.

Advair is definitely more expensive than the other medications we’ve tried (it works out to about a $1 per puff) because there is no generic version. However, after sending doctor approval to the province’s Fair Pharmacare program and our health insurance provider, we now have 80% of the costs covered.

Vomit Train

Although we’ve avoided asthma problems, we haven’t been completely healthy. Stomach bugs (probably norovirus) ripped through our family in February. Astrid and I were sick twice, with vomiting and diarrhea. Grandma got it too. Emily got mild symptoms from the first bug and somehow avoided the second one. I was just glad we weren’t all sick at the same time so there was always one person with energy to look after the rest of the family.

On a more positive note, Astrid has avoided a tooth extraction, at least for now. After she knocked her tooth out last month, her root extraction was delayed because she got really sick. By the time she was healthy again the gums had healed over. We’re now hoping her body is able to take care of it on its own, but if it gets infected she will have to have surgery to remove it.

Crokinole

Astrid has turned into a very compassionate toddler. When I get home from work she always asks “how’s your day, Daddy?” and “what did you eat at New Hippopotamus?”. When Emily was sick, she started every morning by asking her “you feeling better?”. It might be more of a routine than genuine concern, but it’s still nice.

Puzzle with Grammy

When Astrid was really sick in January we abandoned all our independent sleep practices and often slept in her room. After she was better we were still spending up to an hour in her room waiting for her to fall asleep. If we tried sneaking out early, she would just come find us a few minutes later. Now that she’s no longer sleeping in crib we had to find a new approach to sleep training.

Based on some ideas in this blog post, we decided to try confining her to her room by holding the door closed. A few minutes after we left the room, she tried to open the door. We held the door closed and asked her to go back to sleep. She tried every trick to delay bedtime. She asked for a snack, asked for another story, said she had to pee, asked for help with her blanket, and even took off her socks and asked us to put them back on. When that didn’t work she cried and got upset. Through the door, we encouraged her to sleep and sang to her. When she really got upset, we went in once to calm her down but otherwise stuck to the strategy.

It took 60 minutes the first night and 45 minutes the second, but after 4 nights she went to sleep on her own without trying to escape. Since then she’s resisted on a few occasions (especially after daylight savings time kicked in) and figured out some new tricks like pushing books under the door and turning the light on, but it’s been much better. Fingers crossed, but she hasn’t figured out she can watch youtube on the iPad we use as a white noise machine.

Mornings have also been better since we got the Gro-Clock. She always waits for the sun now (programmed for 7 am) before coming into our bedroom to wake us up.

After her sleeping improved we let her have a sleepover at Grandma’s house. She did pretty well, although she woke up at 6 am and crawled into Grandma’s bed.

Painting

Astrid loves painting and doing art. We’ve let her curate her own gallery.

Art Gallery

New skills for Astrid include putting together puzzles, identifying around 10 letters, and counting to 13.

Fairy Whale

More pictures of February and March.

Astrid – Being Sick Sucks

Sick and Sleepy

Is it summer yet? I’m not sure how much more of cold and flu season I can handle.

Ready to Roll

The new year started off well enough. We spent the first Saturday snowshoeing up on Mount Seymour. Astrid had fun playing in the snow, making snowbabies, and sliding on her bum. We had to run back when Astrid announced she had to pee (the new reality of being diaper free) and I couldn’t convince her to just pee in the snow. I was impressed she was able to hold it in with me bouncing her up and down the whole way.

Then she knocked a tooth out that night and it has been all downhill from there. She was drinking water from a bottle with a hard straw when she tripped. There was lots of blood and a few tears, and then she spit out a tooth. I was distraught but Astrid was back up running around like nothing had happened within no time. I kept worrying about the implications of losing a tooth that early (compounding all my personal anxieties about teeth). Yes, it’s just a baby tooth, but one that isn’t supposed to fall out for another 5 years!

1st Lost Tooth

We saw a pediatric dentist a few days later and he assured us that it would be ok – no speech impediments or tooth spacing issues, but there was a piece of the root left that needs to be extracted – Astrid’s first dental surgery.

Dentist Visit

The dental extraction hasn’t happened yet because Astrid has been dealing with colds and asthma. We ended up in the hospital with one of the worst asthma attacks Astrid has had in a while. It hit really fast before she had any cold symptoms and we couldn’t keep it under control at home.

Normally they give Astrid a big dose of dexamethasone at the hospital to reduce inflammation, but this time they gave us a half dose of dex and a 3 day prescription for prednisone to give her more time to recover. But the prednisone came in bitter pills that we couldn’t get Astrid to take no matter how we disguised them (crushing it in yogurt, frosted sugar, chocolate pudding, ice cream). After some desperate conversations with pharmacists at 3 different pharmacies, we managed to get ahold of an emergency doctor at BCCH who switched our prescription to prednisolone – same drug but in less bitter liquid form. It was still a bit gross on its own, but she guzzled it down when we masked it with a strong ginger beer, which she luckily loves drinking.

The next few days were not fun and we almost went back to the hospital on a few occasions but after sleepless nights for everyone and lots of drugs we got through that virus, although I ended up getting sick at the end of it and still haven’t fully recovered.

Asthma Meds

Astrid was mostly healthy for a few days before she picked up a new bug that lead to nasty cough and 4 days of periodic fevers, which were usually mild but one day she was feverish for over 12 hours and her temperature hit 39.9 C before we gave her ibuprofen. Luckily this latest virus hasn’t caused any serious asthma problems, which might mean her newest medication, Advair, is working better than the Flovent she was on before, although it’s probably too soon to tell.

Emily has managed to escape all of this mostly unscathed. Astrid is almost back to full health and we’ve rescheduled the dentist for 10 days from now if she can stay healthy.

Doctor Daddy
Cellphone Oximetry Test Results

I’ve gotten really good at pretending to be Doctor Daddy. I can now calculate Astrid’s asthma PRAM score on my own using the stethoscope we have and the oximetry sensor on my Samsung phone that measures oxygen saturation. If I can’t keep the PRAM score below 4 then it’s time to go to the hospital.

All of our health concerns have us contemplating more drastic lifestyle changes – like pulling Astrid out of daycare, getting a nanny, spending our winters in Mexico, or going full hermit in rural Manitoba with my parents. If I was more confident that any of them would prevent Astrid’s asthma attacks, I would do it now.

New Bed

On the positive side, Astrid is now sleeping in a bed and is almost fully potty-trained. She still wears a pull-up at night, but wakes up dry most mornings. Moving out of the crib and into a bed was a bit of a transition. The first week worked miraculously well, but then she got sick and was waking up more at night and discovered she could just walk into our room whenever she woke up. But we bought a Gro Clock and she’s doing better about staying in bed until the “sun comes out”.

Bedtimes are still a bit of a struggle. When she got sick, one of us would often sleep next to her bed for comfort and now she wants that every night. Emily tried to go back to the ‘put down and walk out’ system when Astrid was healthy again, but that just lead to an epic sleep battle one night. Emily would put Astrid down to sleep and leave the room, and Astrid would lie down for 10 seconds before getting up to find her. They did this for 90 minutes! I eventually had to intervene and find a compromise where I sat in her room (but out of sight) until she fell asleep. That’s been our new normal for the past 2 weeks. We’ll have to slowly transition back to where we were before.

Cooking

Astrid’s imagination has really blossomed in the past month. She likes to play make believe and pretend she’s cooking or shopping. She makes up new words to songs. She changes the diapers of her dolls and pretends to flush their poopies down the toilet. Yesterday she invented a bear family that had joined us for dinner and was shooing them away so they wouldn’t eat her pizza. It’s awesome.

Rainbow Brite

More pictures.

Astrid – Winter is Coming

Reach Up

It’s November and cold and flu season is officially upon us. That means all the kids at daycare are snotty-nosed germ carriers now. Our doctor told us that Astrid would likely get her first cold in mid-September – two weeks after kids go back to school. And like clock-work Astrid got sick on September 14. Luckily the first cold wasn’t too bad and barely triggered her asthma. A few weeks later she had another cold which took longer to get over. The third (and most recent) moved quickly to her lungs. She was wheezing and coughing, and Ventolin was barely making a difference. So off to BC Children’s Hospital we went for Astrid’s 9th emergency visit for asthma. We’ve since started Astrid on a new asthma drug (montelukast) that we’re hoping will get us through the next 5 months of cold and flu season without regular hospital visits. It’s going to be a long winter.
Hospital Visit #9

On the positive side, Astrid started gymnastics at the beginning of September and loves it. On Sundays, she gets to jump, swing, and climb for 45 minutes at the gym. Then she comes home does all the same moves in our living room with piles of pillows and our couch as a trampoline. She’s learned to do somersaults and has gotten much better at jumping with two feet and landing with bent knees.
Jump Gymnastics

Astrid had her first dentist appointment and it wasn’t a complete disaster. I was surprised she let the dentist poke around in her mouth. The feedback was mostly positive (she has all of her teeth and no cavities). She needs to stop sucking her thumb before it causes lasting damage, and we should be brushing her teeth twice a day and flossing them too. There is little chance we’ll be able to floss her teeth, but we’ve been more persistent since the dentist that she actually brush her teeth, instead of just sucking on a toothbrush before bedtime. The thumbsucking is going to be a harder habit to break, but we’re working on it.
1st Dentist Visit

Astrid’s vocabulary has really exploded in the past two months. Unfortunately her pronunciation is lagging. We’ve gone from understanding 90% of what she was trying to tell us to 50%. Sometimes it’s like charades – “Astrid I don’t know what that means, can you point and show me?” She also likes to sing and make up new words to her favourite songs.

Monster
For Halloween Astrid dressed up as a cute monster. This is the first year she understood what was going on. She enjoyed the costumes, riding the ghost train in Stanley Park, decorating a pumpkin, making the hallway spooky, and going trick-or-treating. The hard part is now limiting how much candy she gets. Last year she didn’t eat any of it, but this year she knew what it was. We took away the really sugary stuff and have been letting her have one treat a night.

Loves: Jumping on the couch, running around with her daycare friends, building towers with blocks, helping daddy make pancakes on Saturday mornings, and her Mickey Mouse pajamas.

Hates: Getting her hair washed or brushed.

Mastered: Turning on/off the lights, putting on her jacket by herself.

Favourite expressions: “I no like it” and “my turn – 2 minutes.”

Making Pancakes

Acrobats

Playtime

More photos from September, October, and Halloween.

Astrid – Surviving the Smoke

Waterpark

We did our best to enjoy the last bit of summer despite the smoky skies and air quality advisories. Astrid enjoyed playing in the Granville Island waterpark, and ice cream and popsicles were a regular treat.

Vancouver Smoke

The wildfire smoke was not kind to Astrid. We survived without a hospital visit, but I was giving her the maximum amount of Ventolin every 4 hours, even at night, in order to keep her asthma under control.

BC has now had back-to-back summers with record-breaking forest fires. The impact of climate change is all to real. If this is the new normal, it’s going to be hard on Astrid’s lungs. Winter is cold and flu season, which triggers her asthma. If summer is now forest fire season, she’s not going to get a break at all.

I was interviewed for an article in The Star about indoor air quality as a means of escaping when the smoke gets bad. Here’s one of the quotes I provided,

I don’t want to end up as a city where we’re like, ‘OK, we air-conditioned all the buildings and they’re all clean air, so just don’t go outside’. Vancouver is awesome because of all the outdoor activities we have accessible to us, and if that disappears the quality of life disappears.

Rainsuit

Needless to say we were overjoyed when the wind changed direction and started blowing cool, wet ocean air into Vancouver and cleared out the smoke.

The same week the smoke got bad, Emily was off on Cortes Island for a leadership retreat at Hollyhock. Being a single parent is hard, but we got through. It did lead to frequent conversations with Astrid:

Astrid: Where’s mama?

Me: Mama’s on an island. She took a plane there. She’s coming home in a few days.

Astrid: Mama airplane. Mama airplane. (nodding her head)

The day Emily was done her retreat, I let Astrid know that Mama would pick her up today. She was excited. Apparently she spent the whole day at daycare letting everyone know that Mama was on an airplane. Unfortunately the smoke cancelled Emily’s flight and she spent 12 hours getting home by car and ferry and didn’t arrive until 1 am. So I had to pick Astrid up. When I got there she was waiting at the door holding an airplane in her hands. It was cute and heart breaking. Thankfully no tears were shed when I explained, “Mama’s airplane is broken. Mama is on a boat.”

Flowers

Other than the smoke-induced asthma, Astrid is doing well. She’s eating well, growing like a weed, and has become quite the chatterbox. She’s tall enough now that she can reach the number 6 in the elevator. She’s started asking a lot more questions and likes pointing at things and asking, “what’s this?”

Potty training is progressing with lots of triumphs and failures. She’s peeing in the potty at least once a day but there’s still a few accidents and she wears diapers at daycare. The biggest triumph was when we spent a half day at the aquarium wearing only potty pants, she went pee three times on a toilet, and we made it home without an accident. The biggest failure was one evening when she was eating dinner without a diaper or pants on (pretty common at home now) and she stood up while drinking water and peed in her food.

Sea to Sky Gondola

We spent the last week of August and the September long weekend with Grandma Bev, Uncle Rick and Aunt Toni. Astrid warmed up to the three of them really quickly. We spent one day up at the Sea to Sky Gondola and Shannon Falls and the long weekend on Galiano Island.

Galiano Island

More pictures from August, the Sea to Sky Gondola, and Galiano Island.

Waterpark with the Holdings

Going Up

Astrid – Summer Time Fun

Vegan Ice Cream

July was a jam-packed month for us full of outdoor fun trying to stay cool but also enjoy the outdoors. We went camping at Alice Lake, splashed in the Cultus Lake Waterpark, listened to music at the Vancouver Folk Festival, and got a Science World membership. We even managed to squeeze in a trip to the hospital at the end of the month.

At the waterpark

We met up with Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora for some water fun at a Chilliwack hotel and the Cultus Lake Waterpark. The waterpark was still a little intimidating for Astrid (I think it will be perfect next year), but she had a blast spending time with her cousin Jacob.


We spent a sunny Saturday at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival listening to bands from around the world. Astrid enjoyed dancing in the shade and playing in the kids area. There were a lot of great bands, but my musical highlight this year was Iskwe.

Hospital Visit # 8
We were hoping that summer would 100% healthy but after hand, foot, and mouth last month Astrid picked up another virus at the end of July. After a few days of fevers, she developed some chest congestion which triggered her asthma. She was coughing a lot one day and wasn’t able to sleep so we pumped her full of Ventolin and went to the hospital. After waiting for over an hour in the waiting room with Astrid showing no signs of breathing difficulty, we knew could have probably stayed home. When we finally saw a doctor, she gave Astrid some extra dexamethasone and sent us home without doing the full asthma protocol, which was nice. Turns out there was bad air quality in Vancouver from a bog fire in Richmond. A few days of Ventolin and she was back to normal.

Science World Explorer

Grandma got us a Science World membership for Astrid’s birthday and we finally redeemed it after Astrid got healthy again. She loves it. They have a new Wonder gallery for kids under 5 that Astrid could spend all day in. I could also spend all day playing with the giant blocks or the lego dams on the water table. Science World is only a 5 minute walk from our home, so we plan to visit frequently in the next year.

Astrid has adjusted well to the toddler room at daycare. It wasn’t an easy start – first she was sick and then when she did go back a lot of her friends were sick or away on vacation. She didn’t like me leaving her there when the only other kids were some older boys who ignored her. But now there’s a group of girls her age in the toddler room and she enjoys seeing them in the morning. She’s started talking a lot more – stringing 3-4 words together and pointing out things she sees. It’s also been noticeable in her singing. She’s been mumbling melodies for months now, but this month was the first time she would starting singing songs with words that we could understand. Her favourites are Roly Poly, The Wheels on the Bus, and a Slippery Fish.

Norquay Park

More pictures from July.

Astrid: Asthma Baby

BC Children's Hospital Emergency

January was a rough month. Astrid got the flu, had a high fever twice, saw numerous doctors, got a black eye when she fell in the tub, and spent far too much time at the hospital.

We ended up in the emergency room at BC Children’s again on January 10th. It was our second visit for Astrid’s wheezing. The good news was that she responded really well to the puffers and we learned a lot from the doctors. The bad news was that she officially has asthma. We were out of the hospital in 5 hours with a referral to see a paediatrician who specializes in asthma.

Hospital Monitor

A week later, the doctor reassured us that most young children with asthma grow out of it. She prescribed a new puffer, a corticosteroid called Alvesco, that’s supposed to reduce the inflammation in her lungs and prevent future trips to the hospital. And we were told to come back in April when cold season is over. Unfortunately we ended up back at emergency on January 26th. This time we stayed overnight. We’re pretty used to the drill by now (The Asthma Protocol); the nurses just hook her up the monitor, hand us the puffers, and leave. Hopefully the Alvesco just didn’t have long enough to kick in (it’s supposed to be slow-acting). As good as the treatment is at BC Children’s Hospital, we don’t want to be back anytime soon.

Baba Story Time
In between hospital visits we had two great weekends with Baba. She and Astrid had a lot of fun together. You can read her blog post about the visit and her time in Kamloops.

Hike with Grandmas
While Baba was here we thought it would be nice to go for a snowshoe in the mountains. We planned to do Bowen Island Lookout Trail on Cypress Mountain. On the drive up we kept on waiting for the rain to turn into snow. But all we got at the top was a frigid wet sleet coming down at a diagonal. Not the best conditions for a frolic in the woods with a toddler and two grandmas. Luckily it was dry and periodically sunny at Lighthouse Park so we still got a little hike and picnic lunch.

Reading on her own

Astrid continues to learn new skills, expand her communication, and charm the pants off everyone she meets. She knows her body parts (toes, head, nose, ears) and a couple of animal sounds. She’s really into putting things where they belong – helping us put away our shoes, cleaning up blocks, disposing of trash in the garbage can. One of her favourite games is to see how many of her sweaters and jackets she can wear at once. She just keeps on bringing you new layers to put on her. Once she can’t move anymore she starts bringing your jackets.

More pictures

Astrid: Wheezy

After the first round of drugs

It’s been a crazy past few days. We were supposed to fly to Cancun Sunday morning, but a trip to Emergency ward at BC Children’s Hospital changed those plans.

It all started with a cold in late November that turned into a little cough. We didn’t think much of it until Wednesday last week when she started having fevers at night and coughing a lot.

We saw our GP on Friday and he said it was Croup and prescribed dexamethasone. He said it should get better within 4 hours.

That night there was no improvement, so I took her to a nearby walk-in clinic Saturday morning. The doc immediately sent us to Emergency at BC Children’s Hospital. It was a stressful bike ride hauling ass up the hill to BC Children’s with a sick child in the trailer.

We had underestimated how serious Astrid’s condition was. She was definitely wheezy, but she was in a good mood and playful – how bad could it be? When we arrived at BC Children’s, we were placed at the top of the triage list and got to see the next doctor, which should have been an indication how serious it was. And yet, I still clung to this hope that we would be discharged soon and be able to catch our flight to Mexico the next day.

Astrid’s lungs were really constrained and she was having trouble breathing. They pumped her full of steroids (Atrovent to start and Ventolin every hour after) and immediately you could see the difference. She hated using the puffer mask, but it was making it easier for her to breath. In the first few hours at the hospital, her heart rate was between 130-200 bpm. Her body was working really hard to pump the limited oxygen around. After a few hours of treatment it was between 85 and 150.

At 4:30 pm Astrid was moved out of Emergency into the Critical Decision Unit (CDU) for monitoring. Emily stayed with her, while I went home to finish packing. At 9:00 pm, they did a chest x-ray to see if she had pneumonia but the only thing they found was a small section of collapsed lung (which is apparently common when you have trouble breathing for so long). They almost released us at 11:00 pm. Astrid had gone four hours between Ventolin puffs without much problems, except when she was sleeping her SpO2 (oxygen concentration in the blood) would periodically drop below 90% causing alarm bells to go off. It went as low as 87% and the doctor said she had to stay the night, sleeping with the help of extra oxygen tubes in her nose.

After nearly 24 hours of excellent treatment (I really can’t say enough good things about the nurses and doctors at BC Children’s), Astrid was discharged at 7:35 am. The final diagnosis was Reactive Airways Disease (a vague and unhelpful catchall for all breathing problems). We had to do more Ventolin at home every 4 hours for the next 3 days and monitor her condition.

We missed our flight to Cancun, but we’re just happy Astrid is feeling better. We were all packed and ready to head straight from the hospital to the airport, but the doctors told us to take a few days to rest and see how Astrid is doing. The grandparents flew to Mexico without us and hopefully we will join them in a few days.

I feel horrible for not doing something sooner. It’s tough because we had been at the hospital a few weeks earlier for something that turned out to be nothing. We didn’t want to be the overreacting first-time parents yet again. And Astrid was in such a good mood even when she was sick, it was hard to think she was in need of emergency attention. Now we know to look for trouble breathing and wheezing.

Getting Better