Tag Archives: air pressure

Awaiting the Storm

If you listen to the news, which I haven’t but Richard, in an uncharacteristic display of interest regarding the weather, has been keeping abreast of the latest news by reading updates on the NYTimes online, you already know Hurricane Sandy is heading inland and may or may not hit New York City at some unknown point…  it’s hard to say. Meanwhile, everything is shut. All the stores are closed, all public transportation has screeched to a halt, friends of ours who are in “Zone A” have had the boilers in their building shut off since yesterday evening, some others have been evacuated, and yet, other than the occasional breeze and light sprinkle, there is nothing to suggest anything is amiss.

On Saturday as Nic and I did our weekly grocery shopping run, Nic commented on the long lines. The typical four-hour window given for delivery of one’s groceries had been suspended and other than thinking it strange that so many more people were out getting groceries, it didn’t occur to me to be concerned.  It has to be said, we do not watch the news on television and my reading of the NYTimes online is topic specific.  When Nic asked why so many people were grocery shopping I said something about how it was always like this on Saturdays and then went into a lengthy explanation about typical Monday through Friday work weeks and how it made sense that Saturday was a good day for grocery shopping. By the glazed expression on my eldest child’s face, I’m pretty sure I lost him after the first 30 seconds. Looking back, the incredulous expression on the woman’s face directly behind us now makes sense and I feel a little saddened to realize it was not a look of awe at my brilliant analysis of the shopping habits of fellow New Yorkers.

Last night I explained to Emma that there was a big storm headed our way and because of it, school would be closed and that there might be heavy rain during the night, but that we were all going to be safe.  I was a bit more concerned that the changing air pressure might wake her in the night, causing her pain and upset.  When she woke this morning and came running into our room, I said, “Em, has it started raining yet?”  She said, “Rain, lightning and thunder!”

“Really?” I said, peering out into the darkness.  “I don’t hear any rain.”

“It’s raining.  No school,” Emma said, with the kind of unerring certainty that does not invite argument.   Then she pulled the bed sheets up over her head.

I asked Em if she wanted to go up on the roof to see first hand what the weather was like.  I grabbed my camera and rain gear .  “Oh honey,” Richard said as he watched me zip up my rain jacket, “you’re going to document the storm,” he wiggled his fingers to make quotation marks.  “I love that.”

“It hasn’t hit us yet,” I told him.  “It might.  Later.  You never know.  They’re saying 95 mile per hour winds and 10 foot waves.  Maybe I’ll take the kids to the river later,” I announced.

“I love that you’re going out to record the weather and not hunkering down into fear-bomb-shelter mode,” he looked at me with what I’m pretty sure can only be described as pure, unadulterated, adoration and admiration. (I am convinced I’m reading his look correctly and NOT the way I completely misinterpreted the look of the woman in the grocery store.  Of course, I have been wrong before…)

Em on the roof just now in appropriate, pre-Sandy, attire

Pain, Air Pressure and Autism

Emma woke up in the middle of the night crying.  Her screams of pain, the result of intense pressure in her ears, were like the sounds of an animal under attack.  Last night, having read about the intense sensory issues many people on the spectrum must continually cope with, an intensity we neuro-typicals have difficulty understanding, I felt that I finally understood.  I “got it” in a way that I hadn’t until now.

For years Emma has, periodically, complained about her ears.  When she does we rush her off to various doctors and specialists, only to be told that there is “nothing wrong.”  But those words are being said by neuro-typical doctors and specialists and to a neuro-typical there is, indeed, nothing “wrong.”  But Emma is not neuro-typical, what appears fine to us, does not feel fine to Emma.  She is particularly sensitive to the changing air pressure.  She feels unbearable pain in her ears.  We cannot predict when this will happen, though I suspect the pain she experiences is exacerbated when she spends a great deal of time in the pool swimming, as she did these last few weeks while in Colorado.  Emma loves swimming.  She particularly loves jumping off the diving board and swimming under water.  I could be wrong, of course, but my guess is, the pressure is worsened with those activities.

Last night by the time I’d woken up and gone to her, Richard had already calmed her down.  When she saw me she came to me and wrapped her arms around me, her cheeks still damp from her tears.  She preempted me by saying,  “Ah, baby.  I know, I know.  Your ears are hurting.”  Her voice sounded almost exactly like my own.  She was using the words I use.  She was saying those words with the same tone I say them.

I held her for a few seconds before following her into the bedroom.  I urged Richard, bleary and exhausted to go back to bed, while I sat with Emma.  “Have to go see nurse Mommy,” Emma said, stroking my arm.  “Go aaaaahhhhhh!” Emma made a pretend cry.  “Mommy come!  Mommy come.  I need help!  AAAAAHHHHH!”  Emma continued in a soft voice, reenacting what had happened just moments before.  “Daddy says – you have to blow your nose. Oh, I know, I know it hurts.”  Emma nodded her head up and down.  “Mommy’s here!  It’s nurse Mommy!”  Then she lay her head on my lap, pulled her blanket up around her shoulders and began sucking her thumb.  As I sat with her in the dim light of her bedroom, her head in my lap, stroking her hair I wondered what must it be like to feel a sudden shock of pain caused by something you cannot see or stop.  No matter how much you cry out for help, it isn’t lessened.  I tried to imagine, what that must be like.  How frightening that must be.  How upsetting to be the only one feeling it.  How disorienting.  As I sat there I became aware of the air pressure.  I could feel the pressure in my own ears, not painful, but uncomfortable, building the more I concentrated.  And I found myself wondering what would it be like if I felt this all the time?  How distracting it must be.  What if I felt this, but much more intensely?  What if I felt this pressure, but the pain was excruciating?  How terrifying, while hoping that someone could remove what was causing the pain.

Only we can’t.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  Emma’s Hope Book

Emma’s Ears – Autism

Monday night Emma was up at midnight screaming.  Her ears were bothering her.  This has been an ongoing problem for many months now.  She is highly sensitive to the changing air pressure.  As a result of Emma’s sensitivity, I too have become increasingly aware of it and am surprised that I have lived this long without noticing how often it changes, causing my ears to “pop”, as Emma describes the sensation, too.  Still, just to be safe we have taken her to her pediatrician who assured us her ears were fine and referred us to an ear specialist.  To date Emma has gone to the ear specialist three times.  Her ears are fine, we’ve been repeatedly told.  She’s just extremely sensitive to the air pressure which is constantly fluctuating.

“I need help!”  she screamed.  “Ears popping, have to unpop!  Mommy!  Mommy I need help?”

This can go on – as it did Monday night for hours.  That night she was up until past 4:00AM, I don’t know when she finally fell asleep as I eventually lapsed into a kind of restless state of unconsciousness.  When I woke it was just past 7:00AM and Emma was fast asleep, arms spread out like Christ on the cross, blonde hair fanned out on the pillow beside me.  Richard had long since relinquished his place in our bed and gone to her bed.  Merlin, preferring the rocking chair in the living room, was happily curled up away from all of us when I came into the kitchen to begin preparing the children’s breakfast.

I reminded myself that Emma used to regularly wake up at around 2:00AM only to finally fall back asleep somewhere between 4:00 or 5:00AM.  How we managed to get through those middle of the night awakenings month after month is something I cannot fathom given how exhausted I was yesterday.  The combination of crying in pain and screaming for help, help I am unable to give, is what breaks my heart.  I try to remind myself that being there, just sitting with her, even though I cannot change the air pressure, is a kind of help too.  Still it’s difficult not to feel the rising panic and accompanying helplessness that come with witnessing ones child in such obvious pain.

“Please Mommy.  You have to unplug.  Ears!  Ears!”  she continued to cry while twisting her blanket up and trying to push it down her ear canal.

“Em, try to yawn,” I told her opening my mouth in an exaggerated yawn.

“NOOOOOOOO!”  Emma screamed, pounding the side of her head with her hand.  “Nooooo!  Mommy!  Mommy!  I need help!”

It is during moments like these that I want to scream.  I want to hit the wall with my fist.  I want someone or something to help my daughter.  So I go wake up my blissfully sleeping husband, Richard and get him to help me.

“I got this,” he told me after I woke him, waving me away.  “Go back to sleep.”

Only I couldn’t go back to sleep so I followed him into her bedroom where he had ingeniously pulled out a balloon and told her to blow into it for a few seconds.  He also had the foresight to bring some nasal spray which the ear specialist had given us for her.

And while none of these things were “magical” cures for her popping ears, his calm demeanor helped settle her and me down.

“I’m going to lie down with her, you go back to bed,” I told him.  As he got up to leave, I said, “And thank you.”  To say I feel gratitude that I have a husband who is so completely in the trenches with me, who is more than willing to do his share and often does much more than that, who isn’t afraid to submerge himself in all things that make up our crazy family, would be a vast understatement.

An hour later, Emma, still in pain, but at least not screaming like an air raid siren, whimpered, “Ears still popping.  Go to Mommy’s bed?”

“Okay Em.  Come on.”  I led her through the hallway into our bedroom and climbed into bed with her.

Last night, exhausted and concerned that we might have a repeat episode, I went to sleep early.  Miraculously Emma slept until almost 7:00AM.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com