Monday, February 05, 2007

What a difference temperament makes

First Kadin and then Rees have come down with a nasty virus. It starts with a sore throat and fever and moves on to laryngitis, trouble breathing, and a bad cough. I am pretty sure Kadin got it from his friend at school. I was briefed on the progression by this friend's mom. Luckily, or I might have taken Kadin in for a throat culture. He missed three days of school, hung out at home, napped, played on the computer, and generally was amenable and amused himself. He had this terrible wheeze, but didn't seem overly bothered by it and just soldiered on. "Don't you want to cough?" I would ask, and he would shake his head, "It hurts to cough," he would croak. He recovered.

Almost a week to the day later, Rees came down with a bad sore throat then a fever. He too stayed home from school. But he is a different guy with a different temperament. He doesn't really nap. He doesn't really self-entertain, and he is not prone to relaxing. If he has trouble breathing, he works harder at it, feels trapped, starts to panic, tightens up some more and it starts this whole negative feedback cycle. Poor Rees. His eyes wide, sweat on his brow, his chest heaving, he is desperate to breathe, getting worse and worse! If Kadin hadn't had it first I would have rushed Rees off to the emergency room thinking he was going to die. Hoping to avoid such a scenario, and knowing that his tendency is to tense and work harder, I talked him through relaxed breathing: being patient and letting it happen, pausing at the end of the inhalation and the exhalation, long, gentle, slow breaths. Luckily, he listened (for a change), and it worked. Soon, he was breathing normally again.

As he lay on the couch I gave him a little bell since he couldn't call out (he had lost his voice) and he was too tired to walk. Sometimes he would ring the bell if he was having trouble breathing and ask me to talk him through calming down again. Sometimes he would just ring the bell to ask me to be with him. It seems that he could sense as soon as I was in the middle of the really critical part of something and then ring the bell. That's Rees. He needs someone to be involved with everything about him. Alas, he is a difficult patient to have at home. He is resistant to things that might make him feel better like trying a cup of tea or taking a bath. By dinnertime on Friday it was really bad. I'm sure it didn't help that the “high” temperature was in the single digits so the air especially dry. He didn't want to stay home when I went to pick up Kadin from school (a 5 min walk) so went with me for a little bit before deciding to turn back. When we returned from school, he ran out to meet us, panic in his eyes. Running in the frigid air was the wrong approach. His lungs just could not recover. Finally, we made a warm vapor chamber with the shower in the bathroom and that stopped the cycle of panic and calmed his lungs down. I was worried we'd be up all night, but he slept well. In the morning, it took a while of him laying on the floor in the steamy bathroom and asking me to talk him through breathing a few times before he could get up and function. I hope that was the worst of it. And I hope Greg and I don't succumb. It has brought into stark relief what a difference temperament makes. In a survival situation where strength, fast action, and effort is required, Rees would win out every time. In a situation that requires, calm, finesse, and patience, Kadin is the one who will shine.


Katy said...

That certainly sounds like the little boy I knew... :-) It's funny how temperament is so apparent so early. Say hi to him from my R -- she still considers him her First Friend.

I hope everyone's feeling better soon!


Cousins said...

Sounds like you have a temperment like Kadin - you stayed calm through it all - Kadin's and your temperament allow survival in some situations and Rees's temperament would work in others. Since I'm more like Rees, when my kids got sick I got frantic and the doctor got emergency rooms were used. Same outcome.

cda said...

Don't know why I found this post so poignant--it actually brought a lump to my throat. I'm glad everyone is well now and I'm sure Rees learned something valuable in the process, too. Thanks for bringing us into your world so beautifully.