Friday, March 16, 2007

Why I am blogging about Aidan

The PICU attending told us, "Your son is way out there in the stratosphere of medical miracles." This was way later, when we met him during a much less critical hospitalization. He went on to explain that our 4 week old had not only had a cirrhotic liver but also, when he first arrived there, was in the grip of ARDS. 90% of babies with NH die before transplant. 30% of adults with ARDS don't make it, and some of the rest have permanent lung damage. And here was a neonate who weighed about 4 pounds.

At another time a resident told us "they usually don't get over it" -- "IT" referring to the fungal meningitis they diagnosed him with soon after his transplant when he was massively immunesuppressed. Again, this was way after Aidan was over it, on a clinic visit. They took him off anti-rejection meds in order to give him a chance to fight the fungal infection, and of course he had a rejection, which they had figured was better than the alternative. I have no doubt they were right. Then they treated the rejection. Rejection sounds scary to most people, but it is not as scary to doctors as fungal meningitis.


I have been wondering whether it was the right thing to do to start this blog about Aidan's past. Especially when he is relatively healthy now, and some of his peers are having ongoing crises, and their parents don't know what the outcome will be. Aidan got through the grim gate, though the teeth left their marks, and there may be other gates in the future.

Is it selfish of me, obsessive, depressive, something pathological?

But then, on the other hand:

  • I want to be able to remember all this someday, for Aidan's sake and for my own. Sometimes I try to remember details like when Aidan had his last surgery, when he was dealing with that bile duct problem, when he learned to sit. I don't have it written down except in little scraps of journals and calendars here and there. There is so much to remember, and I want to be able to remember.
  • I want to be able to get it out of the underside of my mind. When I started writing I felt as if a cloud had lifted. Finally, grabbing those shadows and pulling them out from under that bed. Perhaps this is selfish, but on the other hand, it's also free, unlike a therapy session or an antidepressant. And no one has to read this blog if they don't want to. That's free, too (and if you notice those mixed metaphors, please interpret them as a sophisticated depiction of the post-stress mom's confused state of mind, not just confusion plain and simple : )
  • Also: I want to have something out there for other parents of NH children or other devastating conditions. In one way, it does not matter if no one ever reads this blog besides me. In another way, I think it does matter that it's out here in the public record, because Aidan's story is unique but it also fits into a wider medical category where there is not that much information or support as yet. Even if no one reads it now, there might come a time when it will be useful to have it out there. Or so I tell myself. There, I feel much better already.
I remember one time I had to call the transplant director for some quite innocuous thing. Aidan was doing fine, so I wasn't stressed, right? It was something about getting labs done on me for research into the maternal factor in NH. This physician had fought with Aidan through enough way out there events to fill a medical journal; we had a good working relationship. I had to leave a message on his voice mail. I've left countless messages on voice mail; I can do it at least adequately. This time, I started stammering. I stammered as I left the message, real stammering, as if my teeth were chattering. The totally unexpected stranger who had taken over my voice couldn't seem to figure out how to manage this event, so I kept stammering my way through my stupid little message. I must have sounded drunk or demented (Heey Dr R, y'want to share a beer with Aidan and me??) , and for a long time afterwards I expected to get a call from a kindly medical social worker asking tactfully how things were going. I still wonder what the doctor must have thought and sometimes I wake up cringing, thinking about it. Anyway, he didn't return the call. No wonder. Obvious psychotic issues would probably invalidate the lab results, anyway.

Another liver transplant mom told me she just barely stopped herself from throwing an IV pump out the window once. The thing wouldn't stop beeping and giving her an "occlusion" message. This was her first realization that she was seriously stressed. The stammering was my first realization. A lot of times you think you're coping but you're really just stuffing it under because you can't afford to deal with it right then. That's a legitimate survival tactic, a sort of psychic equivalent of the physical shock that helps you keep your basic systems going, but you can't keep going that way forever. Someday you have to deal with it. That's why our transplant coordinator says that post-crisis is sometimes the most difficult time.

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