Big winter storms (we have had a few of those recently!) always remind me of February 1978, when a huge storm shut down much of the Northeast. Boston ended up with about 27 inches of snow.  I ended up on a helicopter, in the hospital and learned why kids should not be given aspirin.

I only remember that storm from its aftermath.  I was a kid living in Bangor at the time.  I had been very sick with the flu.  As part of that my Mom had giving me aspirin. I went to take a nap and the next thing I really remember is waking up at Boston Children’s Hospital.

I think it is fairly common knowledge now to not give you kid’s aspirin unless your doctor says to do it.  Aspirin can lead to a rare illness called Reye’s Syndrome.  It is a sometimes fatal illness and scary event.  But in 1978 that warning had not been made.

I am told when I woke up from my nap I was aggressive, obstinate and just not myself.  So my Mom took me to Eastern Maine Medical Center.  I was such an uncooperative patient they were all convinced I had taken an overdose of some medication.  BUT the ER doctor had done a med school paper on Reye’s Syndrome. He knew it was not an overdose. He also knew the EMMC, at that time, was not the best place for me to be treated. I was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital.

Now remember, as we were in the ER the winter storm was moving into the Northeast.  How was a very ill child and her mother getting to Boston in a blizzard?  Maine Army National Guard medical helicopter of course!  I REALLY wish I remembered this. It sounds so cool to say.

So to make this happen Bangor International and Logan International had to open so we could make the trip.  Auto travel through Boston during the storm was prohibited, so while the ambulance did not have to deal with other vehicles, I would guess that the roads were not the best.

Mom and I made it safely to Boston Children’s Hospital. They did hospital things. At the time they had four stages of Reye’s, and if you made it to stage four, doctors would need to take action to relieve the increased pressure in the fluid in your spine and around your brain. Reye’s causes swelling of the brain and liver.  For me, it got to stage three and then started to reverse itself and the pressure decreased.

After I started to get better, Boston was still shut down to traffic, so we stayed a few extra days in the hospital.  I had a chance to visit a baby who was also had Reye’s. The baby’s Reye’s was more severe than mine and because of liver swelling, he was yellow. It make quite an impression on this little girl.

Now back to my original point.  Don’t give aspirin to your kids unless your doctor tells you to do so.  It can be a factor in developing Reye’s Syndrome.

This link has a very helpful overview of Reye’s Syndrome.

I was reading at you can’t assume kid’s meds don’t have aspirin.  Aspirin can also be listed as ‘salicylate’ or ‘acetylsalicylic acid’.  Ask the pharmacist and read those labels.

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