When I put in my profile that my son M is 7, it wasn't quite true. He's 6 3/4. He turns 7 on Thursday.
I am extremely anxious for this birthday.
On my 7th birthday, I was admitted to the hospital with double pneumonia. I don't remember how long I was in the hospital, but I remember the oxygen tent, and the nurse and a doctor flirting and my grandfather's contact popping out and it being crushed under the rail of the rocking chair he was in. I remember sharing a tv with a girl who had just had her leg amputated. I especially remember it being a big deal that I was in the hospital because my mother was Christian Scientist. But it all turned out fine. I'm fine. I went home soon enough and resumed 2nd grade.
On C's 7th birthday, he had a stomach bug, then had a low-grade fever for a few days. He was a little pale at his birthday party, but we figured he was fine. But two days later he was diagnosed with pneumonia and the day after that was in the local emergency room, then transferred that night into the Pediatric ICU at a children's hospital in the city. And thus began the most terrifying and awful period in my life. I sure hope it is the most awful period in C's life, too, because if anything is worse than that, well, I don't think I can go there.
C ended up on coding, being put on a ventilator for 9 days, having part of his lung removed, and all sorts of other insults. We were so lucky in the end - he survived. He missed a lot of school, required physical, occupational (and emotional) therapy, and his body took literally years to recover completely. But he's here. That time, that experience changed our life.
(I think, really, that is blog is for finally getting out everything about that time. I wrote lots of snippets at odd hours in the hospital, but never did anything with them. When my father died a month after C left the hospital, it became all tied up together, and until now I think, was just too much to consider all at once, or even in parts.)
So, M turns 7 on Thursday.
Wtih M, we also have to consider a birth defect that he has. He was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. At his young age it really should mean very little - antibioitcs before going to the dentist, knowing he'll never play American football, rugby, or any other sport with upper body straining. But at last year's annual check in with his cardiologist, Dr. B told us he also has an enlarged aortic root. Right now it's *just* within normal range for his size (tall), and it goes along with the valve about 50% of the time.
I struggle with what to do. Part of me wants to say - sit here on the couch with me, and be my sweet boy. Don't exert yourself. But if you knew M...well, that's not going to happen. He's exuberant, joyful. We struggle with how to discipline him without squashing his joie de vivre. He's smart, too. He asks why. His birthday party is on Saturday, climbing this thing called the "Pinnacle" at the local REI store, followed by pizza. I have to tell the employee running the belay line not to give him much slack, help him up a bit. Because I want him to feel like all the other kids, but I don't want to take an unnecessary risk. I want him to grow into all his potential, and I just pray his potential and growing aren't mutually exclusive.
We see the cardiologist on Wednesday. He knows my fears and understands them. Even before he met M for the first time, he consulted on C in the PICU when there was some question of whether C's heart had been (unrecoverably) damaged in the code. I don't even know where to begin in what to talk to him about. I need a lot of reassurance. I need to hear that M will be okay. I don't know if he can give me that.
I think I will be holding my breath a bit, through the appointment on Wednesday, through M's birthday on Thursday, through the birthday party, the days that follow...through his whole life, really.
Monday, October 23, 2006