Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I was feeling pretty proud of myself as a parent this weekend as I drove two of my children to a swim meet through the dark morning. The clouds were piled up like mountains and the light was peeking through attempting some sort of midwestern Northern lights show. We left the house a little after 6 a.m. About an hour later, I was standing at one end of the pool with a stopwatch in my hand as Grace swam the 500. That's 20 laps and it is one of her favorite races. She's pretty good at it. Some of the girls from swim team were at the end of the pool turning cards that counted her laps. She was on 13 when she seemed to fall behind the girl next to her. And, as she reached the end of the pool, rather than the smooth flip turn with a glimpse of her legs flashing over her head, she stopped and held onto the side of the pool. I saw her put her hand to her mouth and cough.
She must have gotten choked on the water, was my first thought as I stood there, glancing down at the watch. This was really going to mess us her time. The girls she had been ahead of flipped and headed back to the other end of the pool. Some of the girls were only on lap 11, so if she got going she could still beat some of them, I thought. Our coach knelt down in front of her and was talking to her. Then a white-outfitted offical bent over to talk to her.
The coach made a motion with her hand, calling me down to that end of the pool. I took off the watch, laying it on a chair next to the dad who was timing. "Sorry I can't help you with Nick," I said as I walked away. By the time I got to the end of the pool, Grace was sitting on the bleachers and the coach was glued to her side. Her friends on the other side. I knelt in front of her. Okay, I was still feeling a little annoyed. So she wasn't going to have her best time, she should have finished.
"Do you want the paramedics?" the sheriff's deputy on duty asked.
I felt confused. Why? I looked at the coach.
"Yes," she told him.
Grace seemed pale but she was upright; she was breathing.
"I had to carry her out of the pool. She couldn't support any of her weight," the coach said. "She couldn't breathe."
So the paramedics came and Grace seemed dazed. They said what people who aren't athletes would say, she probably over exerted. But she swims this race almost every week. She was scheduled to swim the 1000 later in the day. This should have been nothing.
We talked about lungs and heart and, as a mom, I began to worry. Those football players who collapse during summer drills. All those kids whose hearts seem healthy until they just stop beating and all the teammates talk about what a kind person the kids was. I was torn between encouraging Grace to try again and wanting to keep her immobilized. When she walked, I held onto her sweater, like that could keep her from falling down.
We saw a sports med doctor on Monday. She ordered a stress test to see if Grace has sports-induced asthma and she'll do an EKG too. Then a friend started talking about whooping cough and the recent outbreak that started with a swim team so we went to see the pediatrician. The pediatrician, not our regular doctor, swam competitively through high school and college.
"Sometimes if your oxygen gets low and your CO2 gets high, you'll start to hyperventilate," she explained.
I practically saw the light bulb over Grace's head. "I'm not dying?" it seemed to ask. And the cold she'd been fighting became nominal. She could be a swimmer again.
And I could take a deep breath and be just a mom again -- not the best or the worst, but a mom.
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