A week ago my son stopped breathing. It wasn't the first time. Or the second. It wasn't even the 100th. It was probably in the region of the 250th-300th time. I'm not sure; he's done it a lot. And I stopped counting a long time ago. Some are short, only 30 seconds. And some go on for what seems like an eternity, second after second, ticking away.
It doesn't get any easier, watching him not breathing. It's different to the first time, of course. I know what to do now, there are steps I take, procedures I follow. But the emotions don't change, I'm still as scared as I ever was. Some times are worse than others, the longer ones especially, but every single time it happens I'm filled with the fear he won't breathe again. It's a distinct possibility. It's a strange and scary way to live.
He upped his game a bit this time, managing a full 16 minutes with only 1-2 breaths. The rest of the time the nurse used a bag and mask. I watched as his chest rose and fell, his lungs rhythmically filling with oxygen with each squeeze of her hand. She kept his brain alive until the sedative hit the power off switch in his brain and he finally took a breath. Those were the longest 16 minutes of my life.
He's home from hospital now and we are hoping a change in medication will prevent it happening again. It's a roll of the dice, a chance we'll take, praying the odds are in our favour.
And so normal life resumes. But it's hard to switch back when you've lived on a knife edge. It's hard to turn your back, to make tea or to answer the door or to go to the bathroom, when you're scared what you'll find on your return. In time, the anxiety will fade I know. I'll be able to hang the washing out again without running in to check, or have shower without needing another person to watch him.
But I know from experience that the nightmares will remain.
The sound of the sirens, ever closer.
The white, the grey, the blue of his lips, his fingers, his face.
The whoosh and hiss of the bag and mask, breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out.
The silent sobs at his bedside, as I prayed "not now, not like this".