I have been having a bit of a battle with myself this week. All weekend I have been feeling nervous about Charlie returning to nursery. I knew he was well and off his ventolin but handing the responsibility of his asthma over to someone else is hard. Ultimately, if something were to happen to him, it would be my fault for not preparing his minders properly and I would never forgive myself.
I work night shifts and was on duty Sunday, which made my anxiety worse. The plan was, Charlie's childminder, Serena would walk him and his sister to school in the morning and pick him up at the end of nursery, watching him for the afternoon whilst I slept.
I have never had any anxiety over Serena watching Charlie. I just trust her. She is so on the ball and has acted before when Charlie's asthma has been aggrevated. I feel calm when I know he is with her more so than anyone else. My panic was about nursery, which sounds so terrible because our nursery is absolutely wonderful.
I finished my shift at 8am and to my dismay the temperature outside had dropped to minus four and the cars were frozen over. I would like to say my instinct made the decision that I would take the children to school but it was pure fear. I was frightened that if Charlie was exposed to freezing temperatures, even wearing his fleece hood, his asthma would flare up.
To make things worse, every Monday the nursery children take part in "Muddy Mondays" whatever the weather - where they go outside for an hour to look at the wildlife and learn about nature. I do not want Charlie to miss out on these things, but I knew he couldn't go outside in the freezing temperatures, the risk of it triggering an attack was too great.
I got to school early so I could speak with a member of the nursery staff. I had already written down all the new information we had gleaned about his asthma following his recent attack and wanted to hand that over. I explained my concerns about the temperatures outside and asked her if he could stay inside for the hour.
Unfortunately the nursery do not have enough staff to accommodate this, espcially on that day as a member of the team had called in sick. The teacher I spoke to tried to be as helpful as she could suggesting she speak to the head teacher to see if an extra member of staff could be funded but felt doubtful of the result. We then discussed switching Charlie's sessions so that he could have Monday's off and do a full day on Fridays.
I was a bit blindsided. I can not describe how tired I am after a night shift, I just don't function very well. I knew I had to sleep but I was being asked to make a decision about Charlie that to me was taking a risk on his health. I felt like I was being neurotic and over bearing but I knew deep down he wasn't safe. He had only been off his ventolin not much over a day and was still coughing a little. The fact I felt the need to explain myself, to make the decision convincing is what bothered me. I decided not to leave him at nursery and thankfully, I was able to drop him off at Serena's at 10.30am and get off to bed for a couple of hours sleep.
Now having caught up on my sleep and being able to think straight, I am grateful that nursery tried to come up with a solution. However, we are not changing Charlie's sessions. His asthma is not dictating to us what he can and can't do long term. It is about making allowances. If nursery can not give me what I need regarding Charlie's condition, that's not their fault and the solution is, he just doesn't go that day.
It has bothered me though. Charlie starts school in September and his absences will not be looked upon with as much understanding. I feel strongly that asthma does not get the same attention or consideration in schools that other conditions do or maybe there is something that I am not doing.
I know my son and I am beginning to understand his asthma. My main fears are the teachers have never seen him ill, they only see him well. I don't know if I trust that they will notice when he starts to have asthma symptoms. I don't know if I trust that they will use his inhaler correctly or get the dose in him quickly enough. I get chest pain over these niggles, literally lie awake at night with chest pain - no wonder people look at me like I have gone slightly crazy.
Charlie did go back to school today. I would be lying if I said I didn't do a little dance inside when I opened my curtains and saw the sun shining. He has thoroughly enjoyed himself, he always does. He has come home with a sticker for good listening and the classroom's toy hedgehog to look after. The only thing he didn't come home with was his inhalers.
This is my point. Controlling my son's asthma is very important to me, more so to him. This condition can be life threatening. Important things like making sure he is carrying his inhaler shouldn't be missed by anyone. I carry a spare on me all of the time in my handbag, so Charlie wasn't at risk by this mistake but if he had gone home with his childminder, she doesn't have a spare.
Thankfully, I have been reading advice on www.asthma.org.uk and have found out that all my concerns are very normal for parents of children with asthma. I am not being unfair but I am probably not being as helpful as I should be either. Comments from other mothers echo how I feel exactly but to assist the school to assist me, I need to be more proactive. With this in mind, I have things to action tomorrow including:
* Booking an appointment with our asthma nurse to write a personal asthma plan for Charlie. We have a generic one currently but I want one tailored to him. We can also check our inhaler technique with her.
* I want a meeting with the head teacher and Charlie's keyworker. I want the school nurse to be informed of his asthma and the absences it has caused and I want him to have a file specifically for his condition.
* I want to check the inhaler techniques of the staff that will be looking after Charlie in the event of a flare up of his asthma and I want to know, if I do provide them with their own inhaler and chamber, where it would be kept
- Ventolin should be carried on the person who may need it. I would rather the teachers forget to give his inhaler back leaving it on the shelf in the classroom where Charlie is going to be. Otherwise it would probably be locked away in a cupboard in the medical room where it is useless to him if he needs it.
* I am going to get my childminder an inhaler to keep at her house. It is understandable that nursery will forget from time to time to put Charlie's inhalers back in his bag, however irritating this is to me in my most controlling moments! It is ultimately my responsibility to make him as safe as possible in all scenarios.
I don't think this vigilance is over the top. I am a qualified first aider myself and can say hand on heart from experience, having knowledge and putting it in to practice is two entirely different things. I only know as much as I do about Charlie's asthma from having been there through the good and the bad so far, there is probably still so much more for me to learn.
I guess it is hard for me to admit that I am the person that needs to make the decisions regarding his care in order to keep him safe and part of that is to provide the right information and guidance to others who look after him when I am not around. I do not want to make the wrong choices, he is too precious for me to get this wrong. How can I be confident in others when I am not confident in myself?
Whilst I am battling with myself, the focus isn't on controlling this asthma and it needs to be.