Meet Penny

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I would like to introduce you to a trusted family friend. Her name is Penny.

Penny is our tag-along. She rides with us in the car and gets packed in the suitcase for every trip. She’s flown in airplanes and driven across state lines. She’s cute, reliable, and helps my child to feel his best and live a mostly normal life.

Penny is my child’s nebulizer. 

My youngest son, W, was diagnosed with asthma when he was very young. Throughout the years, he has dealt with several ER trips, hospitalizations, and days spent at home due to bad asthma attacks.

Penny came into our lives when he was two years old. Our old nebulizer wasn’t working right, and we requested a prescription for a new one from the pediatrician. We were expecting the typical grey box, so imagine our delight when Penny showed up at our door. 

Thanks to the Magic Tree House book we were currently listening to when she arrived, the boys immediately dubbed her “Penny the penguin,” and the moniker has stuck with her all these years. 

Our penguin friend comes with her own igloo carrying case, making it easy to pack her up and take her along on all of our adventures. We regularly remind W to grab Penny on the way out the door or ask each other — “Do you know where Penny is?” — when it’s time for a breathing treatment. 

All of this may sound weird to outsiders, but for us, it’s a way of normalizing what W deals with every day. Calling the nebulizer, Penny, started out as a joke, but by now, it’s become a matter of fact acknowledgement of how important she is to W. 

While you may not know it by looking at him, as he runs across the soccer field or tries to keep up with his big brothers when they play baseball (and succeeds), his asthma is something he regularly fights to live a normal life. 

A cold can knock him out of school for a week because he needs regular breathing treatments, and his body works so hard to breathe that he’s too tired to be in school. That same cold can quickly become pneumonia, and soon we’re out for a month. 

W’s asthma is considered to be moderate to severe and is finally beginning to approach the well-controlled level, thanks in part to our fantastic pediatrician at Cooks Magnolia. But even though he manages well, his asthma is always lurking. It colors the way we do almost everything. 

Babysitters have to be briefed on how to administer a breathing treatment and check W’s O2 levels in case of an acute attack. 

Rescue inhalers live in each of our cars, at school, and at the houses where he regularly spends a lot of time, such as his cousins’ or grandparents’. 

Before we go on a trip, I check to determine the location of the closest children’s hospital so we know where to go in case he has a bad attack we can’t treat.

But most important, we bring Penny wherever we go. We’ve given breathing treatments in Target bathrooms, at grandparents’ houses, and in hotels. When I was teaching, she sat in my classroom many days, just in case W might need her during the day.

W is a champ. From a very young age, he was able to tell us when something wasn’t right, or if he needed a breathing treatment. He takes responsibility for bringing Penny along on our adventures and can set up his own treatments during mild attacks.

Yes, he hates it, but he has also accepted that Penny is his best friend in many ways. She allows him to be his best self and enjoy the things he loves. 

Every day, I am thankful for Penny. 

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