About 2:30 in the morning the bad sound was back, and his breathing was affected enough that he couldn't nurse himself into a comfort zone. Getting him out to the car was the worst, as he got increasingly honked off -- there was one bad moment when he had real trouble breathing, but he coughed through it and then totally calmed down once the car started moving. By the time we got to the waiting room he was still hacky, but mostly very interested in all the new stuff around him.
The wait outside was miraculously short, less than ten minutes. When he applied the sensor to measure Z's vitals, the nurse said "okay, let me wrap this around his hand... huh, his finger is actually big enough I can just do it the normal way." Another nurse named Edgar hooked us up with a mini-humidifier rig that we held in Zack's face. Dr. Lai checked him out and confirmed the admitting nurse's suspicions, it was a case of the croup. That's a virus that hits the tissues just below the vocal cords, swelling the trachea. The second-best thing he told us, besides that Zack would be fine, was that we had made the right move by bringing him in. We'd already discussed that we didn't care about anyone rolling eyes at the hysterical new parents, but it still felt good to have called that right. (If calling it wrong meant he had a less severe problem, that of course would be better, but you get what I mean.)
Then Rich the RN came in with a syringe full of orange-flavored Motrin, which Zack pretty much managed to not eat. We had a little success, then he burped it back into his lap, then he turned his head at just the right moment and the syringe shot a splat of Motrin onto my jacket.
We did way better with the steroid shot, which naturally drew the harshest criticism from the boy. While Z was going all the way up to eleven I looked at the people working at their desks ten feet away and asked Rich if we should shut the door. His reply: "The whooole wing on the other side of the ER is full of crying babies with croup. Don't worry about it."
The steroid shot started working in about ten minutes, after which Zack's breathing became noticably better. He calmed down from the shot pretty quickly and was soon asleep in Julie's lap. Julie lay him down on the examining table thingy and curled up next to him while I held the humidifier.
Z got more sleep than either of us. He woke up breathing well and in good spirits. They sent us back home at 5:30 am. Today's been a little dicey. Although he's still better than he was in the bad parts of last night, Zack is still cranky, coughing a lot and just ten minutes ago decided to go for the "nausea" option on the list of croup symptoms by spewing all over his dad a couple times. I wanted to get him outside and get me some Starbucks so Jules can grab some much-needed sleep, but it looks like he's not in the mood.
BIG shout out to the good folks at St. Joe's: Dr. Lai, Edgar, Rich, George, the nurse who admitted us, the receptionist who got us in quick and gave us free parking, and the nameless guy who pointed out how the heck you got outta there. And another big shout out to Julie's mother Marjorie and grandparents Paula and Murray. They were expecting us for a visit today and we had to cancel out of sleepiness and croupyness -- which makes two weekends in a row because last week we cancelled so we could avoid driving Zack through wide swaths of raging fire.