Spare my Child, Take my Breath Away…

On World Asthma Day, Anumita shares the trial and tribulations that she faced as a young mother of an asthmatic infant. Here’s a candid account of one mother, but it’s the story of countless such mothers, who prayed like her, “Spare my child, take my breath away, O God!”

Clutching on to the rails of the crib, I kneeled down and stared at my child’s chest. All I could see was that he could not breathe and I could breathe normally. How can that be, my breath should be hurting too. Was that the humidifier’s mist or was it tears, my vision was so hazy? Kneeling on the hard tiled floor, my knees did not hurt but his little one-year- old body was hurting bad. I was so helpless. Mothers are supposed to be able to make thing right, what am I doing here? Just sitting and staring at my gasping baby.

The pediatrician, a formidable Irani doctor, touched my shoulder and assured me that he will be alright. He pulled a chair and sat down beside the crib. With a steady voice he explained to me what had happened to my little boy, and advised me to buy a nebulizer to keep at home. My child was asthmatic and he needed to avoid some things, which are his triggers. They were worried about his croup (the cough that sounds like a barking seal). If required they will be performing the allergy test on him too. My body went cold. Few days back I had learnt about the allergy testing. They scratch the back of the child with food that may cause allergies, and watch the reaction on the body or the area of the skin. Imagining my baby going through that was a torment beyond words.

At that time, we were residing in Nairobi, Kenya. The weather was beautiful, but there were often spells of thundershowers, which plummeted the temperature drastically. We had gone for a safari the day before and my baby had a cold. Within 24 hours he developed a rasping sound, while breathing and a cough, which echoed. I put my ear to his chest that heaved and all I got to hear is the air being pulled in forcefully. My husband and I rushed him to the Aga Khan Hospital. In a frenzy of nurses and the resident doctors, my baby was taken from my arms and rushed into emergency. After, which seemed eternity, they called me into a room. He was placed in a crib with a sonic humidifier spraying on his upper body, a heart monitor and some sensors taped to his chest.


My husband was told to get the formalities to get him admitted and that I had to stay with my baby. I would have stayed even if not asked to. Standing at the door my eyes on my baby’s chest, I remembered another emergency we faced with him, when he was only 6-month- old. He was born in Mumbai, India. He was a healthy 9 pounder. Being a robust baby, he never fussed or caused me any issues with his feeding or sleeping cycle. My mother-in- law decided to perform Kali Puja for her first grandchild. With all festivity we had the puja. At the end when they were performing the hom (prayers done in front of the fire), I sat down with my baby in my lap. Once all was over, we came back home and went off to sleep. Early morning around 4 o’clock I woke up to a very strange sound. I found my baby gasping for breath. His face was red, and he was not able to cry. Picking him up and I tried my best to soothe him, but I could not give him any comfort. My husband and the rest of the family were up with the commotion, and were already calling up the pediatrician’s office.

The drive to the doctor’s office was the longest travel I had done in my life. Twenty long minutes, all I did was hold my baby to my chest and pray. I prayed hard. Take my breath and let him breathe, was all I could ask. My husband’s eyes were fixed on the road and his knuckles were white on the steering wheel. He was a safe driver, but today he was burning tires.

Once in the nursing home, the doctor’s chamber had two more patients before us. The wait was killing me and I noticed my baby was less active. As soon as it was our turn, I rushed into the room and blurted out that my baby was wheezing. It was during the year 1996, and awareness of childhood asthma was not so prevalent. My doctor said nothing. He examined him and asked the nurse to put him on the nebulizer. I demanded to be with him. With my baby on my lap I held the mask on his mouth as the nurse put the Abuterol, measured and mixed, in the container and switched on the machine. My eyes calm yet burning from unshed tears, looked into my baby’s eyes. I watched for that smile I know so very well. I wanted it so badly to appear, and it did. A faint one, but it did. As if he understood my wants.

The doctor was too professional, rather cold. He did not like the fact that I mentioned my child was a wheezer. He prescribed meds and an inhaler with a spacer. Two hours later, with a more stable baby in my arms, we bought the med and all the required things scribbled on the prescription.


At home, I pulled out the spacer and the inhaler. This was the first time I saw this contraption, and the puffer. Looking at the big oval bubble like plastic container, which was the spacer, I did not know what to do with it. The doctor had not given any instructions. I pulled out the paper inside the box, and read through the instructions and did what I thought was the right way. A nagging question stayed in my mind. Was I doing it right? I needed to know. I did not grow up with asthmatic people, so this was an unknown territory for me. On the box of the puffer was written the name of the pharmaceutical and its address. In fine prints was a line that caught my attention.

“Write to us if you need more information about Asthma.”

Realisation hit, I was a mother of a child with asthma. I need to know more about it, so that I can fight and protect my child from it. I wrote to Cipla (the pharmaceutical company), and in two weeks time received a package from them. There were brochures and booklets about asthma and all that I need to know. I devoured the information and learnt all the dos and don’ts of this aliment.

“Ma…ma,” bought me back to the present. My little one was stretching his hand up and calling me. My heart did a summersault and I rushed to his crib. Holding his hands I bend down and kissed his forehead. He wrapped his hands around my neck and hung on.

After three days in the hospital, I brought my baby back home. I learnt and taught my child things he should do and shouldn’t to help him breathe easy. We did have a minor emergency when he turned three, but with the steady precautions and timely medications, we both never were breathless for the wrong reasons.

Pix from Net.

Anumita C. Roy

Anumita C. Roy

Anumita Chatterjee Roy is an artist at heart. She has an eye for the unusual. Her naturescapes make her the quintessential Romantic. She paints, is passionate about photography, creates word images in her verses and loves to write. She cooks delicacies and is a foodie. Born in India, she was brought up in several countries. These strengthened the global citizen in her. She now lives in the Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two sons.
Anumita C. Roy