I knew before the monitor started beeping that he was going to stop breathing. I knew it somewhere down in the pit of my stomach, right in my very soul. We had him lying on the bed, airway open, the bag and mask to hand, oxygen on, 15l per minute as the colour drained from his lips, his fingertips, his cheeks. The sats monitor began alarming then, finally recognising Hugh's plummeting oxygen levels, only seconds later perhaps, but we felt light years ahead. We brought his colour back quickly, pumping the oxygen steadily into his lungs. One... Two ... Three. His cheeks pinken again, though his body remains limp and lifeless. His chest artificially rising and falling with each pump of the bag. His eyes staring, unseeing. One minute and thirty seconds later, he breathes again. Not a bad one this time, but we know there's more coming.
We lie him in between us in the bed. I'm reminded of when he was little and this was how every night was spent. Holding a tiny hand each, the slightest movement alerting us to any pauses in his breathing. Back in the days when we had no monitors to warn us. Back in the days when he'd stop breathing so frequently. Back in the bad old days.
We doze, expectant... Waiting for the next one to hit. It will come. It always does. An hour later and it starts again. The sats monitor screeches that his oxygen levels are 28%, the blue tone of his face concurs. I worry that the alarms will wake his big brother. Rhythmically I force the air back into his lungs, his airway now so floppy we need to support it to keep it open. It takes longer this time. A minute passes, two, three ... We work as a team, knowing how this works, having done it so many times before. One takes the bag, the other administers the medicine, aiming for half in each cheek. He splutters, vomits and breathes again. Four minutes in total. The electrical impulses in his brain, misfiring, preventing him from breathing for four whole minutes.
Not a bad one.
We've had worse.
The time he didn't breathe for 16 minutes.
The time the medicine didn't work and the seizure wouldn't stop.
The time the ambulance had to pull over on the way to the hospital.
The time I had to lie him on the ground in the car park and give mouth to mouth.
The time he convulsed so badly I couldn't hold him still enough to get any air in, and I watched, helpless as he turned a darker and darker shade of blue.
That was the worst.
Last night wasn't so bad.
I resuscitated him twice. For 6.5 minutes in total he didn't take a breath.
But that wasn't the worst time.
I live in fear, that the next one will be the worst time.
Or the last time.
Today the front door remains unlocked, should the paramedics need to come in.
Today I have a hospital bag packed and ready by the front door.
Today my chest is tight and I am breathing too fast.
For the next one.