Tucker's breathing was rattled and wheezy as we left soccer practice. I didn't have his inhaler with me (take away two points for my lack of preparedness), so we practiced our other remedies:
"Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth."
Or as Tyler likes to encourage him, "Sniff the flower, blow out the candle."
Air conditioning on high in the car.
And please, just be still, little man.
As he improved, we chose to move ahead with the plan to attend the Good Friday worship service. It is sacred space to sit beside my son and teach him the experience of worship, communion, community, song and praise.
His coughing persisted, but even still, he asked me, "Mommy, what does that song mean? What do these words mean?" I love when my children call me to be still, slow down, and listen anew.
We took communion together, my tall boy and me. As we sang about heaven and Jesus and victory and grace, Tuck whispered to me, "Mommy, I can't remember what Daddy looks like."
I handed him my phone - not to play games, not to watch Netflix, but to see a picture of his dad. Look closely, buddy. Anytime you want.
His cough persisted, and I watched his energy fade. He could no longer stand up to sing. He wanted to lay down. And every breath tripped over another cough.
I finally decided: I've just got to take him home. I'll reevaluate then, but I've got to get him out of here. I took a mental count of the meds I had at home, the tricks and remedies to bring him out of these woods that were growing thicker.
As I slipped out to the aisle, the man at the end of our row took my elbow. I recognized his friendly face; he is headmaster of the church's elementary school. A retired pediatrician.
He took my elbow and said, "I have a stethoscope in my office. Come with me."
He had been listening to Tuck's breath sounds throughout the service, and he was concerned about the increasing, audible tightness. We sat in his office, and he listened to Tucker's lungs from various angles through his chest and his back.
The doctor was all business, clearly concerned.
"You need to take him to the hospital."
"Okay. Can you give me a number on a scale of 1-10 of how concerned you are?" I wasn't disagreeing with the plan; I wanted to know how much panic I should let in to my own mind.
He wouldn't give me a number. "He needs to be seen. Immediately. Can you take him? I'll drive you, if you need help."
I gathered my things and buttoned Tucker's shirt. "I can take him. We'll go to the hospital near our home."
"No, you'll go to the hospital near this church. He needs to be seen immediately."
I no longer needed a number on the scale of 1-10. I got the message: get him to an emergency room. Stat.
He escorted us to the car, and ten minutes later, I carried my wheezing, restricted, coughing son into the Children's ER.
Doctors and nurses sprang to action, and nobody ever implied that perhaps I had overreacted in seeking such urgent care.
They pumped my son with adrenaline and steroids, a cocktail that I must always weigh against his breathlessness. As he responds to the meds, I watch him shiver, shake, grow angry and nonsensical. And I remind myself, "But he can breathe. He's breathing."
They kept us nearly all night, until Tuck could breathe for two hours without intervention.
And to think: I might have taken him home, were it not for the doctor nearby who was listening so closely.
My God goes before me, placing angels in my path.