On Friday afternoon, Adam started dribbling with cold.
By Saturday morning, he started to cough.
By Saturday afternoon, we were giving him inhalers - just in case.
By Sunday evening, he was coughing so much - and so continuously, that he emptied his tummy all over me.
By 2am Monday morning, both Chris and I were sitting on his bedroom floor -
Giving medication...watching...waiting...soothing...holding a small hand as it was pushed out of the bars of his cot, searching for Mummy.
By 4am, I was on the phone to Shropdoc and at their direction, by 4:30am on the way to A&E.
By 5am, a doctor had cheerfully announced Adam was definitely wheezing and Adam was put onto a nebuliser.
In the background, I heard the nurse ringing the children's ward cheerfully saying,
"We have a young man here, who I understand is well known to you, Adam Cheshire...?"
In the background I heard a good natured chuckle before,
"I'll print out his notes and send them up."
By 5:30am, we were on the paediatric ward - again.
Just two weeks after the last time.
"We'll keep him in, just for observation, but we can't hear wheezing, he doesn't seem *that* bad...? Are you sure it's not just an upper respiratory cough caused by cold...?"
Once again, I explained Adam's history, his symptoms, the fact that a cough is the first sign - not the last.
And that there is a cough....and then there is a cough.
This cough is deep, bronchial, bends him double with the force of it, leaves him gasping for air in between coughs. This cough is continuous. This cough is so deep that my baby - my toddler - ends up vomiting from the violence of *just* a cough.
This cough - as I have explained so many times before - is the prelude to my baby going downhill and quickly. In the past when I have thought this was *just a cough* and have kept him at home, I have ended up on the phone desperately begging for help when it becomes clear it is so much more than *just a cough* and I know my baby needs help...
So no, it isn't *just* a cough. And no, it isn't *just* a cold.
And yes, as his mother, I do know him best - thank you for recognising that. Thank you for admitting him *just* for observation...
...observation that lasted for forty-eight hours in the end.
But it was *just* a cough.
And so once again, I move into hospital with my son.
I camp on a hard cot covered in plastic wrap, a thin sheet and a seemingly thinner mattress...and I am incredibly grateful for it because I will not, cannot, leave my son alone in hospital.
In a brief, sudden sort of way, I become friendly with other parents camping beside their own children's beds and we exchange, "...and what are you in for?"
In sadness, I walk beside the rooms containing tiny infants hooked up to wires, machines, monitors - with radios playing in the room to simulate a family environment. I see tiny babies cocooned in sausage shaped blankets wrapped around their whole bodies to simulate a mother's cuddle.
I watch nurses, rushed off their feet, but taking time out of their schedule to come into those rooms and spend a precious twenty minutes holding, cuddling, crooning to those babies.
I feel so sad when I see their families come in to visit for such short, precious times and I wonder at their circumstances. I see one young mother trying to alternate between her busy, healthy toddler who wants to play in the nursery and her desperately ill baby in one of those rooms. I cannot imagine how torn she must feel.
And I make my cup of tea, and try to entice my son into playing, reach through the bars of his cot to stroke his head, hold his hand and - when he will let me - I bring him out to hold him...until he thrashes to be allowed to return to where he is comfortable.
Then it's time for medication. I distract my son while the nurses wrap a plaster around his finger and toe to take his "Sats" (pulse and blood oxygen levels). I soothe him while they probe his ear for a temperature.
I hold him down, restraining thrashing limbs and kicking legs while they place his "Spacer" device onto his face and for each of ten puffs of his inhaler, count to ten, smiling, trying to soothe him, distract him...comfort him. To suggest to him that such a thing is normal and good for him.
While I know it is as far from normal as two-year-old experience should ever have to be.
I hold him on my lap for the twenty minute saline nebuliser - I hold his thrashing body as best as I can, one nurse holds his arms and legs as he kicks, lashes out and another nurse holds the nebuliser onto his face...that was the worst one.
By the end of it, I am apologising for the bruises they are sure to have sustained.
And I am explaining yet again that my son is likely autistic and doesn't know his own strength, doesn't have the social skills to understand his actions. Simply doesn't understand what is happening to him.
And once again, it breaks my heart.
Finally, a doctor briefly listens to your chest, takes the nurses word for it and says Adam can go home. With a cheerful smile he says,
"Feel free not to return. We'd really rather not see you again....!"
We wait to be discharged. Hours upon hours upon hours before finally, the medication is delivered from pharmacy, the discharge letter printed and all of this precisely five minutes after Adam has fallen asleep peacefully in his cot....
Not until two hours later is he ready to go home!
I push Adam's pram out into the fading evening light and the fresh late Autumn airs smells strange - there is no disinfectant in the air, no sounds of the institution, no beeping of monitors. It all feels unreal and I marvel again at how quickly I get institutionalised.
I take you home, treat you to McDonald's - which of course you barely eat as you're not eating much more than fumes at the moment. But it's ok because at least you're out of hospital.
I take you home and cuddle you into sleep, dosing you with inhalers through the night and watching, watching, watching to make sure you are safe.
Nobody gets much sleep that night....or in the nights following.
This week, we stay home from college as I try to protect you from more bugs that always circulate nurseries as children gather there. Night and day, day and night, my husband and I take turns to dose you with medication, to comfort through the gasps and coughing and to worry as you refuse to eat more than a mouthful or two a day.
By Thursday, I decide to cheer myself up and hang some Christmas decorations early...and as I am balancing on a step tool....it gives way and I fall...landing awkwardly on my foot...
"It will be fine I said, a bag of frozen peas and some elevation will sort it out...."
I know it is more than likely broken, I recognise the pain from a similar injury fifteen years ago but remember that then, my Canadian doctor had to be convinced to X-Ray it because if I could walk, then it couldn't be broken. After refusing to leave her office, she finally referred me for a non-urgent X-Ray where, four weeks later, they confirmed my foot had indeed been broken...but then sent me away because there was nothing they could do about it anyway. We don't do anything with fingers and toes they said, just wait.
So this time, already tired from so many fights, I decided it would be fine. I would be fine. It would be better in the morning...
The next morning I try to get out of bed and still can't put any weight on it. Hobbling to the bathroom, I am crying out from the pain and know I need to get it checked. I cannot ignore this.
One more visit to A&E later, an X-ray and I'm in a plaster cast from the knee down for six weeks.
I cannot drive. Cannot take care of my son alone because I am dependent on crutches so cannot lift him or rush to him if he needs it, cannot do the most basic things for him from preparing food to changing his nappy.
I am excused from college lectures on the basis of necessity.
My husband has to take unpaid parental leave from work to allow him to care for us both.
He waits on me hand and foot and tries to hide his exhaustion as he suddenly becomes Dad, Mum, Day Carer for me, Day and Night Carer for Adam...all while fighting a cold or bronchial virus himself.
I keep asking him how he is coping, is he holding up?
"Ask me in six weeks," is his stock reply.
Happy Christmas. No really.