Saturday, January 29, 2005

From Eight East

Room 835 has a nice view. There's the beautiful old cemetary, lined with the oldest surviving trees in the city, and just past that, the causeway with it's double arches heaving themselves skyward like swan's wings against the placid water beneath. From up here, you can see the barrier island and the posh resorts and the million dollar houses, and just beyond those, and because it's a clear day, you can see out across the Atlantic. It gives one a feeling of peace and, dare I say, hopefulness?

Were this a hotel, it would draw a nice price and people would book their reservations months in advance. But this is not a hotel, and for that reason it draws an even higher price. Welcome to the pediatrics wing of Holmes Regional.

Jonas is bundled in my arms, he's pale, listless and withdrawn. They poked him in eight different places and couldn't find a vein. They had to take him to a special procedures room in order to finally get the IV started. Of course, this equates to "a place where Mom isn't allowed to watch as we put his writhing body into restraints and dig around in all of his limbs for the last good vein. He was in there for 45 minutes. He returned to me barely conscious and wrists boasting the telltale marks. All I can do is hold him, kiss his face, try not to think about how sick he really is, or how much he's already been through.

The nurses were the sweetly incompetent type. Good at dishing out kind words and smiles, but grossly incapable of doing anything properly. By day two, his IV was infiltrated,(a fact discovered not by his nurse, but by his Aunt Heidi) and he was off to special procedures for another round of restraints and needles.

Restraints and needles... sounds like some sort of junkie version of an old children's game doesn't it?

Can you tell I haven't slept?

The verdict is Influenza type A. The treatment is time. Time and fluids for the dehydration that is has become so severe that the poor kid can't even pee or cry.

We cuddle together in the hospital bed because the hospital crib looks more like a metal cage to me. I have the flu too. If I feel this miserable, how bad must he feel?

Every two hours Nurse Incompetent arrives to wake him and administer his breathing treatment, and just when he's done with that, and dozing back to sleep, in comes her counterpart to further poke and prod. It seems unfair that so much bad should be experienced by such a tiny baby.

And so I hold him, wrapped in the standard issue hospital blankets, wires and tubes dangling from beneath, and we stare out the window at the spectacular view, and for just a moment, we can pretend that we're not here at all.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Great Gerber Conspiracy

In the past week Jonas has ventured into the world of "real food". There is nothing more fun for a doting parent than to watch their little punkin' heads reaction to different tastes and textures. But this phase also brings with it a whole set of delimmas.

Standing there in the baby food aisle of the local mega-mart, I felt overwhelmed and intimidated by the rows and rows of little glass jars. What foods are best? What flavors will he like? What brand should I feed him. Up until now, there has been no decision to make, just uniform cans of white powder guaranteed to go down easily and with little mess. (At least, as little as can be expected with a refluxy baby)

The labels do little to discern a difference between brands. Amazing, everyone's bananas contain... well, bananas. Everyone's peas look like food processed grasshoppers. But wait, there are two different types of Gerber foods. Amazingly, all the brands have two distinct "lines" of food. There's the standard glop our parents stuffed our faces with, and then there's the "Tender Harvest" type, or the "Nature select" or whatever they want to call it.

These special lines boast their organic nature.

"Oh, cool!" thinks the new mommy. Afterall, what parent wants to fill their little darling with pesticide laden fruits and veggies? Sure, it's a little more expensive, but isn't it worth it? Don't you want your baby to eat nothing but the best? Of course you do.

But wait a minute? If they're selling organic foods, does that imply that they are admitting they sell little jars of chemicals? Shouldn't there be a warning label on this stuff?
Warning: This baby food contains chemicals guaranteed to cause your child's intestines to rot out and a third arm to sprout from the top of his head.

No thanks, I'll pay a little extra.

Or is this all a ploy to make nervous new mothers spend more money? Afterall, we grew up on the chemical compote, didn't we, and we're ok, aren't we? And if I give my son nothing but organic baby food, does that mean that his digestive system will be incapable of tolerating regular food when he grows up? Am I doing my son a disservice by wanting to sheild him from a world of pesticides?

Damn Gerber for all my sleepless nights.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

It's a Piggany!

Some of the coolest animals I've ever had the pleasure of sharing space with have been guinea pigs.

Sure, you say, how cool could an overgrown hamster be?


Perhaps half of their attraction is the fact that they are so odd. They're intelligent little hairballs who can be trained to come when called, unlike the aloof cat, or the lazy dog. And it's so much fun to feed them! I mean, what other animal enjoys eating more than the guinea pig?

My nephew, when he was about three, came to visit, and was amazed at this fuzzy little oddity.

"Aunt Angie, what's that?" He asked, sticking his finger into the cage to be sniffed and inspected.

"It's a guinea pig, Steven, you wanna pet him?"

He played with that piggy all afternoon, and fed him nearly everything in the fridge. When his mother came to get him he ran over to the cage and yelled "Look Mommy! It's a piggany!"

That's what they've been called around here ever since.

Our last piggy's name was Charlie, or Sir Charles, if you want to be correct. He was a trip. He'd whistle and chirp when you called his name, and he loved to chase the cat around the living room. He had quite a personality. Unfortunately he developed a little piggy tumor in his belly that made eating less than pleasurable for him. When a pig don't eat, it's time to go, so go he did, in the most humane way possible.

My little sister sent me this the other day. Although it may be the most stupidly cute thing I've ever seen, it made me giggle. Hope it has the same effect on you.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Let's Celebrate!

The Pediatrician's office called last night to let us know that Jonas's test results all came back within normal ranges. We still have to return on Tuesday for another test or two, but things are looking good. I can't tell you how relieving it is to know that your baby isn't going to suffer from some lifelong complication. I couldn't do anything but sit there and cry, phone dangling from my hand.

Funny, my response would have been the same if it had been bad news. Tears are strange. I'm never sure when they're going to well up. It's frustrating sometimes, being such an emotional person. I cried the other day just watching two little boys walk home from school. The older brother had his hand on the younger brother's head, and the little brother was crying. The older brother leaned over and kissed the little boy, hugged him and wiped the tears off his cheeks. What a touching thing! Most older brothers wouldn't be caught dead doing something like that in public.


We really have a lot to celebrate this week.

Yesterday my nephew, Steven, was given four awards at school. It was all a big surprise to him, and he's been beaming ever since. It's not every day that a child gets four awards, you know. It's so much fun watching him go through this phase of his life, when things like little paper certificates still seem like such a huge deal. I know that in another year or two, he'll be too "cool" to be proud of his grades.

Wednesday night he lost his second tooth. He's such a baby about his loose teeth, too. He won't wiggle them or do anything to assist in their extraction, only sit patiently and wait for them to fall out on their own. The last one took well over a month! This one made it's getaway in an ear of corn. He didn't even notice it was gone until he noticed that it was bleeding. It was pretty amusing to watch him try and find it stuck in the corn cobb, which he did, and then decided that if the toothfairy thought that tiny tooth was worth something, she'd really pay up for the corn cobb it came out of!

Tomorrow is Steven's sixth birthday. It's hard to believe how much time has gone by. I know it's such a cliche, but I feel like he was just born last week, ya know? All the moments between then and now have just sort of become hazy. Sure, I remember the milestones between there and here, but it's all so surreal.

The other night I was complimenting him on his reading skills, and I told him, "You know, pretty soon you're going to be teaching Jonas how to read and write."

He looked at me comically and replied, "Aunt Angie, by the time Jonas can read, I'll be in sixth or seventh grade!"

Oh my God, he's right! I don't know if I'm prepared for that. Maybe I will be by the time it happens. And I wonder what kind of teenager he'll be? Will he continue to be such a bright and respectful young man, or will he take after his mother and his Aunt and turn into a little hellion? I try remembering what I was like in sixt and seventh grade, and what the other kids were like. It makes me cringe. Sooner or later he's going to be exposed to the uglier side of life. Will it ruin him?

So his birthday party is this afternoon at the bowling alley. We've set up for them to have the whole "cosmic bowling" thing going on, where everything is blacklights and strobes and lazers. He's going to love it, I'm sure. My sister is in a panic because there are 35 kids coming. 35! They're going to have to shut the place down!

All I can say is thank God they sell beer!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

And now we wait

Another day, another test, still no closer to any answers.

Jonas and I spent the day at the hospital today being subjected to another round of baby-torture. Poor kid. I don't know if I can stand much more of this, and it completely amazes me how resilient he is.

Lying there on the second x-ray table of the day, catheter taped to his little penis, (yes, I said taped, how many of you men out there cringe just at the thought of pulling tape off your penis?) having iodine injected into his bladder, he wailed and screamed, and all I could do was stand there and kiss his little face and tell him how sorry I was that I couldn't make it stop. As soon as it was all over, and I had him in my arms again, he looked at the tech and smiled. How many of us adults could smile at someone after they violated one of the most sensitive parts of our bodies?

I think my son has been subjected to more radiation in his not-quite-five-months of life than most people get in their entire lives. We've been to outpatient radiology so many times that I can now navigate the winding hospital corridors with my eyes closed. Ok, maybe not that well, but you understand the point. It just seems so wrong that a child that is seemingly so perfect could actually be so ill.

The worst part of the visit over, we then took a tour of ultrasound. Hauntingly, the room he was taken to today was the same room in which I first glimpsed the beautiful little black and white image of his face a half a year ago. I remembered lying there gazing at the monitor with excitement and joy in my heart, and today, I stared at it with a sense of dread, waiting for that horrible something to appear.

I'm no doctor, but as far as I could tell, the kidneys that appeared on the screen looked very much like normal little kidneys. In other words, nothing glaring, like some huge tumor exists, and yes, there are two of them, one on each side. Outside of that, I suppose I'll have to wait for the official reports to come back.

And that's something that I really hate. These doctors will be collecting money from me for the next 20 years, and yet they can't take 2 minutes to look me in the eye and just say, "No Mrs. Martinez, we don't see anything bad here." As if playing the waiting game guves them some perverse power trip.

So we sit, and we wait as patiently as possible for the phonecall that will decide the course of our son's life. And we hold him the way that every parent should hold their child; as if it may be the last time.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Betadine & Band-aids

Perhaps the worst pain a mother can experience is having to watch as their four month old is treated as a pin coushin.

Jonas hasn't been well since Christmas. First it seemed like the same old stomach bug that had the rest of the family bed-ridden and moaning, then it evolved into something resembling teething and erupted into emergency room warranted fever last night.

By the time we made it to the pediatricians office this morning he had spiked dangerously to just shy of 104 degrees. His little head felt like it contained a blazing furnace. And when he cried the agony in his little wail was enough to break even the coldest of hearts.

We are fortunate to have a very good pediatrician. She has spared no expense when treating and diagnosing my son througout all of his varied complications. Today was no different. Of course, sparing no expense also means a barrage of tests that usually involve subjecting him to ungodly sorts of pain.

Holding him there as a team of three nurses searched every inch of his tiny naked body for a decent vein was just about enough to send me over the edge. Five pokes, and a catheter later they had the necessary specimines, but still no diagnosis other than an elevated white cell count and a urinary tract infection.

There are two words that no parent ever wants to hear: Spinal Tap. Can this really be so serious? Couldn't it just be a little virus or something? Is it possible that my sweet little boy could have meningitis?

Yes, it's possible, but not likely.

We're waiting on the blood cultures before taking that step.

The nurse returns with an antibiotic injection. Jonas, completely exhausted from the fever and the physical battering he has just been subjected to, prompty falls asleep. We discuss the fact that UTI's in male babies are extremely rare, and they don't really know what's caused it. There's a possibility that his kidneys are affected, that urine is backflowing from his bladder.

My world goes hazy. This is all too familiar. I can't help but be terrified that my son will face a life of agonizing kidney problems. And while I know that my problems are not hereditary, I can't help but feel like this is something caused in utero by my own renal insufficiency. I suppose all parents go through the guilt of thinking they've done something wrong when faced with a seriously ill child.

And the words of one man ring inside my head: "You were never meant to have his child."