Monday, September 26, 2011

The Cough

I swear, it's like my son is the Mayan Calendar. Daniel starts hacking away every year on the first day of autumn - the result of a bronchial cough that kicks off every Spring and Fall like clockwork. 

And every year, I've been the dutiful mother who alerts the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to not panic and send him home. They've tried convincing me to come get him in the past, but I've always refused. They tell me his cough is terrifying the other children, and I tell them that their selective enrollment process terrifies me. It's taken countless doctors' notes and paperwork to persuade CPS that this horrible, months-long condition is just normal for Daniel. 

The Irish are known for the ol' "weakness of the chest" (bronchial and respiratory issues). Everybody in my family has drippy noses, dry coughs, and asthma.  It's a curse.

Yet as I flipped through the medical forms for CPS last week and got to the line about "existing conditions," I paused. I knew the gates of hell would be opened if I checked that stupid box.

The calls from the nurse.

The appointments with the pediatrician. 

The endless faxes and letters back and forth. 

It is all designed to limit CPS' legal liability should Danny inadvertently hack up a lung on the playground. I mean, can't they just send the kid for a cup of water if he starts coughing during recess? Have him sit down for a few minutes?  When did common sense get replaced with a mile-long paper trail designed to cover one's ass?

At the end of the day, the kid is just going to cough.  And no amount of forms, school meetings or medical interventions will change this.  I will do everything in my power to minimize his suffering (cough drops, Benadryl, the occasional Prednisone, and a vaporizer), but I know from experience that Dan's cough is as much part of his permanent life as his big brown eyes.

In case you were wondering, Children's Benadryl works quite nicely on adults, too.
Fall has begun and my poor, bronchial boy will undoubtedly be driving his teacher crazy with classroom coughing disruptions for the the next 2 to 3 months.  His new front teeth are also growing in all fangled, and the dentist has suggested we start on braces soon.  And when you add in his enormous size, all signs seem to indicate that this is going to be a rough year for my Daniel. 

I remember all too well how this goes.  The cute little kids are the pets of the school - adored by teachers and administration alike.  The big loud hacking ones are cast aside like used tissues, relegated to emptying the trash cans for the janitor.

In the middle of all my angst, Daniel came home with an announcement: his teacher had appointed him to student council. He beamed and told me this was the first teacher he ever had who really seemed to like him.

Perhaps I had jumped the gun.  Dare I infer that my son has landed that rare breed of educator? Someone who understands Daniel's early-onset gawkiness and decided to act? Someone who peers right into the soul of each child, tending to his heart and mind like the most devoted of nurturers? 

Like a mom

It's probably too early to tell if Daniel's teacher is truly exceptional. Yet after all of the ups and downs I go through daily with CPS, I am opting to believe the best.  And something tells me that this teacher might have an even greater impact on Daniel than even his vaporizer.

Suddenly, things are looking up.
Thank you, Mrs. 2nd Grade Teacher.  Thank you. 


  1. Marianne-maybe cut out all of Daniel's sugar, that might kick that cough.
    My son had a very similar condition, and we took out all his sugar and it went away.
    The downside is his life is now a grey, empty sugarless void where he eats pickles while his peers eat doughnuts.
    Builds character, right? right? picklesicles, kids?

  2. My Beege has the same awful cough - all deep and mucousy, every spring and fall. I actually had her teacher approach me last year about taking her out of school while her cough was so bad; he said he had been approached by "concerned parents". Could not believe it.

    I politely explained, loud enough for the "concerned parents", who were blatantly eavesdropping to hear, that she gets this every year, and unless he was suggesting that I take her out of school the entire winter, he was going to have to listen to her cough. I also pointed out that if I thought my child was ill, I would not be bringing her to school.

    Yay for Mrs. Second grade!
    I'm having a similar experience with her first grade teacher. Finally someone, other than me, who realises she's pretty smart, and might get a little bored, and the best way to get her to stop talking all the time and distracting other kids is give her something to do.

  3. Gweenbrick? So no Cocoa Puffs then? Alright, I'll give it a whirl. The resistance might be ugly.

    Skwishee - Isn't it a pain? Last year I got calls from everybody and their mother about Daniel's cough (like I hadn't noticed it). I figure for every mom who looks at me like I'm inept, there's a strong dose of karma coming their way. I love teachers who view all kids in need of special handling, because at the end of the day it makes such a difference.