Friday, September 7, 2012

Probably Nothing But Possibly Everything

"I heard a heart murmur when she was sitting up but not when she was laying down so blah blah blah anemia blah blah blah blood test something something something six months."

This is how I heard the kid's pediatrician at her 10-year well-child visit this week. As soon as I heard "heart murmur", my brain switched off and I can't really be certain what was said after that. The pediatrician started sounding like the teacher in Charlie Brown TV specials. Because when you hear there might-maybe-possibly-but-not-terribly-likely is something wrong with your child's heart, you sort of go numb and shock-y and I am pretty sure your soul leaves your body for like, a minute.

No, really, I did understand most of it. Eventually, after a period of serious thought and remembering and Googling. There was a new murmur not noticed at previous physicals; about 50% of kids have an audible heart murmur at some time in their lives and only a few of those will go on to have a heart condition; she was tested for anemia, since that can cause a murmur; the test was negative so we are just going to watch it and have another listen in six months. Everything's cool. Nothing to see here.

Except that later that night, right after dinner, Ainsley suddenly looked up from her plate with a suddenly white face and hollow eyes and announced, "I'm so tired." She then burst into tears and moaning and groaning and not making a whole lot of sense for about half an hour.

And that's the story of the night I thought my kid was dying, and I couldn't feel my face for a few hours.

Just so you know, everything ended up being fine. It turns out the freak-out and sudden onset of fatigue and an unwell feeling was just extreme constipation. (Someday, she will kill me for writing this. Honey, everybody poops. Or tries to.) She also had a flu shot at this particular appointment, and I am sure that didn't help. It was all just a coincidence that she had a meltdown and scary physical symptoms the night after the heart murmur was found. A trip to the bathroom and a warm bath later and all was well, and she even went to school the next day.

When it was all over, when she was sent happily to bed and the color and smiles had returned to her face, I had a meltdown of my own. Statistics that are meant to comfort you that your babies are going to be just fine are not comfortable to me. It just makes me think of Fate standing on some parent's doorstep holding the world's worst lottery ticket.

"Somebody's gotta win...might as well be you."

In the past year and a half, I've seen two children be diagnosed with cancer. One of them is on Ainsley's swim team, the other is the younger sibling of someone on Ainsley's swim team. There have been fundraisers and bracelets and t-shirts celebrating the bravery of these two young girls, and I see them often at meets and waiting outside of practices. They have a tough road ahead, but the statistics, for what they're worth, are in their favor. They are responding well to chemo, though the toll on their little bodies is evident. Every time I see them, I hug Ainsley a little tighter and pray a little harder.

Please, God, not her. Not the only one I have.

But praying that makes me feel like I'm wishing it on someone else, and that's not that case. I wish it for no child, ever. A deathly sick child is the ultimate evil that nature can throw at us. A complete reversal of the very laws that govern our universe. A smack in the face to order and justice.

It is, I think, the very worst thing you could live through.

This morning, when she zipped through my library before catching the bus, running around and smiling and laughing like nothing's wrong (and I'm sure it's not, almost), I stopped her for a long, embarrassing hug. I felt her heart against mine and thought of how I had gone into her room the night of the heart murmur scare of 2012 and, while she was sleeping, put my ear to her chest and listened to what sounded to my untrained ears like normal, healthy rhythms.

And how many other parents have listened to their child's heart in the middle of the night, and felt their breath blowing on their faces, and known that while the news they got from the doctor's office is probably nothing, it's possibly everything.

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