Monday, March 02, 2009

A Visit to the Hospital.

As much of southwestern Pennsylvania is breathing a sigh of relief after being bypassed by the worst winter storm of the year, I am hoping that a different force of nature will soon depart from my family's life. Yet again Baby E. is sick, and this time he has landed in Children's Hospital for an extended (if indeterminate) stay. Yesterday morning I tried to decipher the meaning of a familiar but misplaced buzzing sound coming from the stand alongside my bed. It took me a bit to figure out that it was my cell phone on "manner mode". I quickly discovered the reason for its intrusion- M. was trying to get a hold of me, and calling repeatedly. When I finally answered I learned that she was at the hospital ER with E.

I don't know about you, but I'm not entirely rational first thing in the morning. It's always taken me awhile to reconcile to the fact that it's time to re-enter my waking life. M. was irritated that I hadn't picked up her call the first few times she had called, and I interpreted her tone as panicked. I don't quite remember what she had to say, but I knew that my son was in trouble and that I was needed somehow to assist. And I honed in on the phrase "104 degree temperature" that apparently described E.'s current condition. He had been ill for a few days previously, but had demonstrated a marked improvement through Saturday, so this was entirely unexpected. I wasn't remotely prepared for it.

When I was a freshman in college, I once ran a temperature that exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It was shortly after my first kiss, and seemed a poetic introduction to the worldly ways of adult passions. I was laid up pretty helplessly, and unable (or unwilling) to seek proper medical attention. When it finally felt like my fever broke, I made my way to the university hospital for a check-up. I had been unable to eat for six days, and couldn't even keep water down for half of that period. I was surprised to learn that I was at 104 degrees. My parents were called, and they were told to leave their house immediately in the middle of the night. They drove 300 miles to Pittsburgh. Apparently it was touch-and-go for some time.

In retrospect I suppose I suffered some sort of damage due to that fever. Strange shifts in my brain became evident. My ability to understand complex mathematical concepts seemed to degrade rather abruptly, but my verbal skills improved markedly in a manner that might be described as "odd". The aftermath of the affliction had major effects on my life. I didn't return to school until the next year. For about a month after my sickness I looked like a concentration camp victim. I had lost 25 pounds in a week. I had to piss more frequently. It was a strange time, and I'm sure it left an impression on my parents as well. I can only imagine the concern they had for my well-being. I stayed with my grandparents for a week after they picked me up.

Now I have had a glimpse of what it's like to worry about the health of my child. When I got to the hospital (after gathering the things that M. needed for an overnight stay), I lost my composure for the second time in the space of a couple of hours. When I finally located E.'s room, and walked through the door, I saw my son- he appeared clammy and had tubes running to multiple parts of his body. He was sitting in M.'s lap, and he looked up at me with a weak smile and extended a hand wrapped in gauze to hold an IV in place. As I crouched down to greet him my eyes teared up and I was struck speechless. There aren't sufficient words to describe how I felt at that moment.

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Blogger Dagrims said...

I'm sorry to read that post, but I'm glad that you shared it. My thoughts are with you and M., and for a quick recovery for E. I know exactly how it feels to have a sick child - it's like "I'm the parent, I have to be able to do something to help" - but be powerless to change the situation.

Call me if you need to talk to someone.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

powerful post. thanks for sharing. best wishes for a speedy recovery.

1:39 PM  

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