Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Croup: The Story Behind the Photo

Last December, I accepted a writing assignment that involved sharing a Christmas photo, and telling the story behind it.  That content is no longer available on the Internet, so I thought I write about it again here today.

In the photo I selected to write about, presents and wrapping paper are strewn across the living room floor of the house we lived in at the time.  A humidifier is visible amidst it all, placed on a mat in an attempt to protect the hardwood floor beneath the carpet.  I remember that it was cranked to the highest setting, and was kicking out so much mist that it was soaking everything around it.


Thirty-six hours before the photo had been taken, my husband and I had rushed our 2-and-a-half year-old son to the hospital. A severe case of croup had nearly closed his airway, causing respiratory distress.

X-rays and test results were as scary as his symptoms.  The ER physician was gravely worried, and my son was admitted to the hospital for treatment.  It was December 23rd, 1999; a very long night for all of us. 

Fortunately, our son improved significantly overnight, and he was discharged late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Driving home, my mind began to shift to more than just my son's health, for the first time in nearly 24 hours. I panicked when I realized that none of the presents for him or our 5-year old daughter had yet been wrapped. 

My husband's parents had already arrived to spend Christmas with us; our daughter had stayed home with them while we were at the hospital. They entertained her and helped watch over both kids while my husband put toys together and I threw wrapping paper on the gifts!


The photo I am writing about was taken the next day, on Christmas morning.


  • My son, still pretty wiped out, was coughing, short-of-breath, and not exhibiting even close to his normal level of energy and enthusiasm while opening his gifts. He looks pretty sedate in the photo! 
  • My father-in-law is gazing tenderly at my son. He undoubtably could relate to his grandson's discomfort better than anyone else in the room, having recently undergone chemotherapy himself.
  • My mother-in-law's smile exemplifies her perpetual delight in her grandchildren. She kept her worried little granddaughter busy and happy, even taking her sledding during our hospital stay.
  • My husband's posture, though barely visible at the left corner of the photo, exudes weariness. A sleepless night in the hospital had been followed by a late evening, making sure all of Santa's work was done. 
  • My daughter appears to be watching her brother open a gift.  I remember her alternating between being thrilled with the presents she was receiving and concerned by her brother's illness.

The humidifier had everything a little damp, but it was better than Christmas in the hospital!

Thankfully, my son recovered fully, and my father-in-law is cancer-free. The only remaining evidence of the uncertainty of that holiday is this photo. A reminder of our many blessings.

Have you ever heard the sound a child with croup makes when he/ she coughs?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!

A version of this story was previously published by Yahoo Contributor Network, but it has been removed from the Internet and full rights to the story have been returned to me.

11 comments :

  1. Oh. My. Word. Sooo scary. But you're absolutely right. It's these experiences that make us count our blessings. What a priceless photo. All of your blessings captured in one happy moment!

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    1. It was scary Diane. I remember commenting to the doctor, "He is going to be okay, right?" and he paused before he answered, "Your son is very sick." We had just been to the doctor that afternoon, who diagnosed croup, but sent him home. It is awful how quickly symptoms can worsen. So yes - this photo of a positive outcome holds a lot of joy. All the best to you and all of yours Diane!

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  2. Merry Christmas eve Susan! We were very fortunate, and somehow neither of my boys ever had croup. Plenty of other illnesses, but not that one. After that experience, it must have been so nice to be home on Christmas morning with your family!

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    1. Fortunately, our croup experiences were limited to this one. I really thought we would be spending Christmas Eve in the hospital that year- such a gift that we were able to go home and be with our little daughter.

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  3. I bet that was terrifying! We spent Christmas with Caleb which was wonderful and on Monday Princess Isabella will be home. The only drawback will be the monitor and oxygen. As you can imagine we're all very nervous. Fingers-crossed though and thinking about next year!

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    1. Sending lots of good thoughts your way. I bet Isabella will grow stronger by leaps and bounds when she is reunited with her twin! Looking forward to updates!

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  4. Harrowing at best, glad it all worked out in the end for all even your dad. Cancer free YEAH!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks - yes, we have been very lucky!

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  6. It's gratifying to know that your kid survived the experience. Most times, those are high stakes. Fine time that you got all the necessary instruments right and safely secured. Anyway, I hope that everyone and everything are faring better these days! All the best to the whole family!

    Candace Hudson @ MedCare Pediatric Group, LP

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    1. Thank you. Realizing how high the stakes were made it very scary indeed!

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