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Thursday, December 27, 2007

A long, moist night

Yesterday evening I enjoyed a rare treat; a 'boys night out' with fellow bloggers Ben Chorin and MO Chassid at a new Jerusalem steak house.  To their credit, our wives struck just the right balance of supportive indulgence and prim disapproval at the prospect of their husbands consuming spicy chicken wings, prime rib and good wine without them.

When I got home last night, I was really set to do nothing more than crawl into bed, check my email and allow the serious business of digestion to carry me off into a deep, dreamless night's rest. 

Sadly, this was not to be.

Sometime after one in the morning Zahava woke me up.  Apparently Yonah had coughed himself awake with a touch of the croup, and had wandered downstairs still barking like a little sea lion.  Now that I think about it, maybe it was the barking cough that woke me up.

For those of you without kids, croup - also known as laryngotracheobronchitis - is a respiratory condition which afflicts young children (typically aged between 3 months and 3 years). The symptoms are caused by inflammation of the larynx and upper airway, with resultant narrowing of the airway and is characterized by a harsh "barking" cough (source).  Except in serious cases, there isn't much to worry about, but it sometimes scares the bageezus out of the kids, and most parents will try to do what they can to ease the symptoms.

As most parents know, the old fashioned treatment for croup is still pretty much the best:  You take the kid into the bathroom, close the door, turn on the hot water in the bath, shower and sink... and magically transform your bathroom into an impromptu steam room.

This treatment hasn't been improved upon much since the late 19th century. Oh sure, hospitals like to use fancy 'blowby' systems and sometimes toss in nebulized adrenalin and/or steroids for show... but I suspect that they're too embarrassed to admit that they can't spare the bathroom space to give the sick kids a proper 'shvitz'.   Apparently, the warm steam helps ease the kid's dry, constricted airways which lets everyone get back to sleep.

Anyway, in keeping with our prenuptial agreement (which stipulates that I deal with our children's episodes of vomiting and any other 'excretory adventures', and Zahava gets to deal with the fevers, aches and all other non-specific malaise), it was clearly her turn at bat... so I did what any loving husband would do; I wished her luck, rolled over, grabbed a big turn of the down comforter under my chin and went back to sleep.

However within minutes I heard Zahava's voice calling me over the sound of running water.  I staggered into our bathroom and was immediately lost in a fog bank that extended from about chest height to the ceiling.    This meant that not only was our little four year old not getting the benefit of any of the healthful steam... but that an increasingly frustrated Zahava - on whom the steam cloud began at about nose level - couldn't see a thing and was having a very bad hair day night.

"You need to pick Yonah up or he isn't going to breath in any of the steam", said my lovely bride with her hair sticking out nearly horizontal.  I was going to ask her why she hadn't picked him up herself, but seeing that only the top half of her head was getting any of the added humidity (making her flattering new haircut look a little like bozo the clown), I decided not to further antagonize her.

However at this point the steam bank started to descend a bit (maybe the hot water heater kicked in) so after only a few minutes of holding Yonah in my arms I arrived at the brilliant idea of standing him on the toilet.  Sure enough it was a perfect fit.  He now had his head in the cloud and was now getting plenty of steam... meaning I could go back to bed. 

Now, before anyone accuses me of being a bad husband / father, let's remember that it is Zahava who traditionally does the disappearing act when our children's digestive and/or excretory systems go haywire.  A little perspective is all I'm asking for!

Sometime later I heard the water being turned off, followed by my wife telling me that since there was no way Yonah was going to be able to go back to sleep upstairs in his own bed, that I should let him bunk in with me. 

No problem... I just moved over and gestured at the spot next to me.  Almost instantly a clammy, steam-soaked little boy clambered into my envelope of warmth and pressed his soggy pajamas against me.  Within minutes Yonah was snoring softly away (having stolen the lion's share of my pillow), but it took me quite a bit longer to rediscover the route back to oblivion.

Sometime after 3:00 AM I was again awoken, this time by my older son who was standing next to my bed with his teeth chattering.  When I asked him what was wrong, he explained that he had taken a hot water bottle to bed with him and apparently hadn't tightened the stopper properly.  As a result his bed was now a tangled mess of cold, clammy sheets.

If I had been in my right mind I would have told him to simply climb into Yonah's bed (or one of the guest beds for that matter), but instead I let out a tired sigh and moved over to let him slide in on the other side of me.  I was now sandwiched between two damp boys and was quickly getting the sense that, for me, sleep was over for the night.  But miraculously, I managed to fall down the rabbit hole one last time.

At about ten minutes to five I woke with a start after having dreamed that I was paralyzed from the waist down.  In the dream, no matter how I tried to command my legs to respond, they remained uselessly curled under me with no feeling whatsoever.  The more I tried to make my legs work, the more apparent it became that all lines of communication south of my hips were down.

I lay there for a few moments in the dark and took stock of my surroundings.  I could feel Yonah's knee and elbow pressed against my ribs on the left, and one of Gilad's lanky legs was draped heavily across my thighs from the right.  This all made sense as the night's events came flooding back... but where were my legs?  I was wide awake and still had the same sense of paralysis that I had experienced in my dream.

I picked myself up on one elbow and looked down to see if they were still there and suddenly everything began to make sense.  Our black Labrador mix, Jordan, had noticed the small crowd on my bed and decided to join the party.  She'd plopped herself down with her chest and head resting across my knees. 

Ever try to get a warm, sleeping dog off of your numb, dead legs?  Trust me when I tell you that you're not exactly negotiating from a position of strength.  I couldn't even get my legs to twitch.  And being warm and comfortable, Jordan didn't exactly have a compelling reason to listen to my whispered commands. 

Finally, after about ten minutes of listening to my pleading, Jordan decided to humor me and moved over enough to allow me to slide my legs out from under her.  With a few circus-worthy contortions I extricated myself from between my two sleeping sons and slid onto the floor... and waited patiently for the feeling to return to my legs.  The first few minutes of pins and needles were excruciating, but after a little while I had regained enough motor control to stand up and lurch around the dark bedroom like a B-movie monster on my still-rubbery legs.

As I write this, everyone else in the house is still tucked snugly in bed.  I, on the other hand, feel like someone spent the night beating me with a large stick.  I'm guessing this was all some sort of cosmic payback for having gone out to eat steak without Zahava.

Posted by David Bogner on December 27, 2007 | Permalink


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Our son used to get croup a lot at that age. While steam helps (we would use a humidifier in the room), for short term help we found that cold air works better. So we'd either take him out to the mirpeset, or open the freezer and have him breathe in the cold air.

This site agrees:


Might be worth considering next time...

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Dec 27, 2007 12:58:15 PM

...I decided not to further antagonize her.

Yes... because there was no way that sharing this verbal painting of how attractive I looked, standing in a steamy bathroom at 1 am! with approximately 2,500 readers could possibly antagonize me!


Good thing I appreciate how funny you can be, Bogner! [grumble]

Posted by: zahava | Dec 27, 2007 1:15:05 PM

Oh, this brings back memories. I used to get the croup regularly until about age 8 or 9. I remember my Mom used to make an "oxygen tent". She would unfold a card table onto the top half of my bed, drape it with a bedsheet, and put a humidifier on the floor, also under the sheet.

Worked like a charm.

Now that I think about it, how come we're not as creative as our parents used to be?

Posted by: dfb1968 | Dec 27, 2007 2:21:06 PM

Hee. Very funny, as usual.

Zahava, don't worry. Some of us already know how attractive you are, and we all know how attractive David thinks you are. Even with your hair sticking out.


Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger | Dec 27, 2007 2:27:56 PM

I hate to say it, but Zehava was had in your pre-nup. Nighttime excapades are definitely the male's responsibility, or at the very least a joint venture. I even had that put in our Ketubah :)

Posted by: Baila | Dec 27, 2007 2:33:56 PM

Baila: Oh! But I was soooooo NOT had in the pre-nup! Among the gems included are:
1) I carry kids for 9 months -- Trep carries all other things, period.
2) The cook/meal preparer (aka: me!) does not clean up.
3) I don't "do" vomit, smelly things, or windows.


Posted by: zahava | Dec 27, 2007 3:42:32 PM

I stand corrected. Vomit ALL the time.

He really is a giver.

Posted by: Baila | Dec 27, 2007 4:48:20 PM

As a hatzala member for many years,

1. Cold air usually works better
2. DO NOT MINIMIZE the possibility of it being serious. If home treatment does not work within a few minutes, get professional help.

Posted by: Gershon Dubin | Dec 27, 2007 4:53:24 PM

1) I carry kids for 9 months -- Trep carries all other things, period.

Who did the negotiating here. I never would have recognized number one. Carrying kids for 9 months, no big deal. We're talking about something very natural, like walking. Women all have this funny complaint that being pregnant is so difficult.

It is similar to the "I can't be bothered to check and see if the toilet seat is up or down, so leave it down" argument.

Now having to carry a gun while cooking chopped liver, that is much harder work.

See, the benefits of being a long term reader. You can refer back to all sorts of fun stuff.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 27, 2007 5:02:04 PM

I think you owe Zahava a steak dinner :)

Posted by: cruisin-mom | Dec 27, 2007 5:03:39 PM

"'excretory adventures'"

we are navigating those right now.

Posted by: Lion of Zion | Dec 27, 2007 5:11:51 PM

Baila and Zahava,

I'm not sure if you have met in person or not, but as someone who knows you both, you SOOO have to meet. Can anyone say "girls night out"? Zahava, isn't it your turn anyway!

Posted by: Rachel | Dec 27, 2007 5:12:31 PM

Girl's night out indeed. I think what's called for here is a girl's overnight at a swanky Dead Sea spa....:-)

Posted by: Marsha G. | Dec 27, 2007 6:16:36 PM

I have to third the cold air suggestion. That's what always worked for our little one, who was also prone to croup.

Also, I obsessively have her chest checked at the dr. while she has such a cough, but that must just be me.

Posted by: Abbi | Dec 27, 2007 6:38:24 PM

Just had a similar night of no blood circulation from the waist down. It involved Sumo sized tom cat on my feet, his "heat seeking" sister in my back (under he bed covers) and a cuddly hubby. Sigh. It's nice to be appreciated!
I remember croup well - my parents would boil several kettles in my bedroom.

Posted by: Noa | Dec 27, 2007 8:20:22 PM

Oooh...good ideas for pre-nup additions to the ketubah. I knew it was a good thing I wasn't married yet! :)
David, I sure hope you enjoyed that steak dinner!

Posted by: SaraK | Dec 27, 2007 8:55:15 PM

Just to put my two cents in:
Croup (the annoying bark) go with steam.
Stridor that frightening squeaky noise while breathing go with cold air.
When I'm not on call in the hospital, I'm on call at home. Our night routine is like musical chairs: I never know at the beginning of the evening in which bed and with whom I will awaken. That was good when I was a bachelor, but now, not so good.
This may surprise you but I'm not good with vomit, that's my wifes job. On the other hand I'm good with blood (not surprising) so I deal with all the cuts, scrapes and removal of foreign bodies.
Father(mother)hood, the most challenging job of all.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Dec 27, 2007 9:24:34 PM


Girls night out sounds good to me--and I'd love to meet Zehava. Should we discuss at our next class?

Posted by: Baila | Dec 27, 2007 10:15:47 PM

our doctor told us... after one really scary/bad night... to pop our son into the car and drive him to the ER with the car window open and the wind blowing on him. he said we would most likely find relief before we ever reached the hospital.

Posted by: weese | Dec 27, 2007 11:19:40 PM

In light of the cow that you and Ben shared last night, I am incredulous that Zahava was able to wake you from your sleep.

Posted by: mochassid | Dec 27, 2007 11:21:29 PM

Gershon: Thanks for your concern! Our two older kids, when they were younger than Yonah, had terrifying episodes of bronchiolitis which involved overnight stays in the ER breathing with the aid of a nebulizer. And Gilad scared us with a nasty case of pneumonia a few years later. And I have allergy induced asthma. [sigh] We are too well versed in signs of respiratory distress for a couple of whom neither is employed in the field of health care!

It amazes me how sound and smell are both such powerful memory triggers. My younger brother was very susceptible to croup. Though it has been well over 30 years, the sound of Yonah barking his way down the stairs the other evening simultaneously woke me from a sound sleep and zoomed me back into a small, cramped bathroom filled with steam, with my mother (z"l) holding a terrified tousle-headed boy against her steam soaked flannel pjs, pink hair tape threatening to drop from her finger curls, and the sound of her voice in the melody of a now-long forgotten lullabye. I am far older than my mother was when my brother suffered these late night steam-fests. But that sound. It is so distinctive, and so ingrained in me, that I knew what it was before I was fully conscious.

Rachel and Baila -- GREAT idea! I'm game! Let's do it!

mochassid: That's what Trep said! LOL. :-)

Posted by: zahava | Dec 28, 2007 8:52:50 AM

We've done the late night soak. I am in charge of late night things in my house b/c by the time I can wake my husband I've usually taken care of it. Except for vomit. THAT is his job -- too many years as an RA in a college dorm for me to deal with that any more. We should keep some kitty litter around though -- that stuff is great for getting it picked up.

We had to do a 911 call for our daughter with croup that steam wouldn't cure. My husband was on the phone with the pediatrician while I was in the bathroom steaming her, and her lips started turning blue. As soon as the paramedics came and took her outside into the January air she started breathing better, that plus an overnight in the hospital and she was as good as new. . .

sidebar - I'm amazed that Yonah can stand the sweaty shower. My son with slight sensory issues can't stand it, so we do the outside thing. Nothing like a 5 year old waking you up at 1am coughing saying "I need to go breath cold air."

Posted by: Annie D | Dec 31, 2007 2:31:08 AM

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