Thursday, September 29, 2005

My name is Yidchick and I'm a doctorholic

Yesterday. Day 3 of my doctor binge. This time it's the paediatric gastroenterologist. He’s pleasant, smiley. Perhaps too smiley. He tells me nothing I don’t know but he says it in a way that makes me feel a lot better. He also weighs and measures little O and tells us that she is still in the bottom tenth percentile for height and weight, but that her head remains in the fiftieth percentile. This pleases R and I for some absurd reason. We are both large-noggined folk and we find it amusing that our child is similarly endowed. Then a horrible thought flashes – her large cranium isn’t encephalated as a result of cerebral fluid build up? – I ask, trying to thinly disguise the neurotic overtones of a mother who has done too much research on spinal conditions. No, he assures me, her oversized catroon-like skull is inherited from her parents. We laugh in relief, and all point and touch O’s ginormous head. There is some talk of buying giant sized hats. Do they make bicycle helmets in super-large? someone asks. More laughs. Then he charges me $150.

Today. It’s 9.45 PM and I haven’t seen a doctor at all. I’ve been tempted a few times but I’ve withheld. I nearly drove to the hospital out of habit. Am trying for a doctor free day tomorrow. Hold thumbs I make it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You want me to wait how long?

When God made doctors she only got half way through when she ran out of crayons. She’d already done a batch that was coloured in perfectly, making them full, caring, intelligent and giving. But with the remainders she just outlined, leaving the insides empty. Dr Charmless, the neurosurgeon, is definitely one of the latter. He kept us waiting an hour, hurried us in and told us there was nothing he could do until he saw an MRI of O’s spine. Under my insistence he examined her. She weed all over him. (She’s a great judge of character, my girl.) He appeared disgusted and complained bitterly about the mess she’d made. I hurriedly cleaned up and tried to throw the wet tissues in his bin. He pushed it under the desk - it’s full, he said, there’s one outside. The bin was completely empty. The man works with blood, sinew and bone and he gets freaked out by a bit of baby piss? Not a good sign.

He ordered the MRI, told us there’s a waiting list of two to three months and kicked us out. Then his secretary billed me for $150.

Two to three months?

How can we wait that long for a diagnosis? What if it’s urgent and starts causing all the symptoms I read about - muscle wastage, nerve damage, a large swolen head reminiscent of cheap B movie aliens? And how can he determine if it’s urgent or not if he doesn’t even know what it is?

His secretary called this morning (I’m expecting her to bill me for that too). She told me she’s arranged the MRI for next year.
In March.
That’s 6 months away. And two weeks after I’m due to give birth to the twins.

I Oh-my-godded and huffed about being put on a cancellation list but she remained stubbornly unmoved. So I did what Jewish girls always do in a crisis. I ate a tub of icecream. Then I called Daddy. He spoke to the radiology department at the hospital where he works and within ten minutes he’d bargained them down to late November. Two months away.

Which led me to wonder what people who aren’t related to a doctor - most people – do. I suppose they wait. Getting sicker. With large swolen heads reminiscent of cheap B-movie aliens. While fuckwits like me jump the queue.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Oh show me the way to the next doctor's room...

Not knowing is the worst part. For some reason the known, however disturbing, is more comfortable than the endless expanse of ignorance. From the moment the doctor told us there’s a problem with O’s spine, my ignorance and imagination teamed up to create a horrific slideshow of nightmares. I went through each future year of O’s life. What if she can’t play sport? What if she can’t dance? What if she becomes one of those Hospital Kids who everyone starts off feeling sorry for then gets bored after the fifth operation and writes her off?

I have worked with children with severe Spina Bifida, and I know how many of them live from operation to operation. I do that awful superstitious thing that only confounds me further – I question whether my work with these children was some cosmic preparation for what lay ahead of me.

The ignorance is too frightening so I do the next thing I shouldn’t. Research online. I find out that the condition they think O has - a tethered cord - requires a series of spinal surgery over a period of time. The prognosis is varied, depending on the severity of the condition. One article points out that life expectancy of these children is normal. I hadn’t even considered that it wouldn’t be. Rather than comforting me, this upsets me further.

The wondering and ruminating is exhausting and frightening. Against the surgeon’s advice, I make an appointment with a well-known neurosurgeon. At least he will give me something real to grasp onto. I’m taking O to him later this afternoon.

And a strange sideline dynamic is emerging. Since returning from hospital, O has become much more short-tempered and explosive. I’m not sure if this is a result of her schedule being disrupted or her being in pain. I’m concerned that I’m pandering to her rather than letting her self-sooth, but I’m not willing to take the chance. If it’s pain she’s in, she needs me to comfort her.

I thought working in TV was a minefield but fuck me, this mothering caper is a far more complex beast.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Reality. Different to what I expected.

Here’s the fucked part:
When I was a child I used to worry that I had things too easy. I thought a bit of adversity might do me good. My father came from a family of eight (seven boys, one very frightened girl). His father was a professional soldier who was never home, then died when my dad was fifteen. His mother was a Lithuanian peasant who didn’t speak English. One of his brothers was alcoholic, another schizophrenic. My father didn’t know how old he was until he left school at fourteen and was told he was too young to work. He’s now a Professor of Gastroenterology. His entire personality is defined by the fact that he had faced his demons and conquered them.

Me, I had it cushy.

While everyone around me seemed to have parents who were getting divorced, fathers who drank, mothers who lied, brothers with rabbit fetishes, I lead the good life. I had great parents who stuck together, siblings who seemed to respect me, the ability to do well at school without even trying, a main part in the musical and lots of friends who loved me because I wasn’t good looking enough to be threatening but I wasn’t ugly enough to be a liability. I played lots of sports, I laughed hysterically on the phone with my girlfriends and I was the person people came to when they had problems because, although I seemed not to have many myself (apart from the small issue of shovelling food down my mouth to fill the dark void inside me), I was good at helping other people deal with theirs.

I remember wondering if God was preparing me for some massive future horror.

Now I know he was just softening me up for parenthood.

It’s Tuesday, the morning of O’s operation. We’re not allowed to feed her for 12 hours before the procedure. She’s used to eating every three hours. For 9 hours before we even get to the hospital she cries horribly. The starving cry I remember from videos of Ethiopian children in the eighties. Her little wet eyes look at me in confusion – why are you withholding food? R spots me trying to sneak her a bottle. Wisely he confiscates it. Then he ties my hands together with a rope. Or threatens to. Not in a sexy way.

The drive to the hospital takes an hour and a half in peak traffic. O cries the entire way there, alternating between a fierce, angry scream and a pathetic, starving whimper.

Once there it all happens quite fast. Weigh her, check her, assess her. I’m allowed into theatre to hold her until the drugs kick in and her lively eyes turn empty.

Hours. Hours. Hours. Lumped on top of each other like stale hot-dog buns. There are meant to be two of them but there are four. Then the call from the anaesthetist. The operation took longer than expected. We rush to the recovery room. Our limp baby is still knocked out. Machines on every limb. The doctor calls us aside to talk. I expect him to say the operation went well, it’s all over, she’ll be fine. The most he’ll give is that technically it was okay. Then a small hesitation. We found Something Else. It’s her spine. He tells me a lot of things to do with the way a normal spine forms and the way hers differs. He mentions that we will need an MRI, a referral to a neurologist and a neurosurgeon. He talks about the long-term implications of the condition he suspects that she has. We’re lucky to catch it now, he says. Yes, lucky, I think. Lucky like a cigarette.

While he is talking I feel R shrinking behind me. At one point I become unsure if he is even still in the room. Here I am, in a pristine, sterile environment and I feel this lovely doctor, this gentle kind man in his sixties, holding an axe which he repeatedly swings at me. With each question I ask, he swings the axe again. Soon it has cut into my flesh and is ripping bits out of me. R hides behind, dazed, absentmindedly wiping the blood off his lapel. Then the doctor leaves, the axe in hand, and I am left staring at my limp daughter. Wondering if she’ll ever be able to walk.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Let's hope she can't remember this

And suddenly it is upon us. Dr Second Opinion has suggested that O be operated on as soon as possible. Tomorrow in fact. The hospital is far away from home so we're staying at a motel. I know this sounds sick but part of me is excited to get a few days in a motel. The no dishwashing factor. And the miniature shampoo and conditioner. Must focus on miniature goods to distract me from the horror of her going under the knife again.

Will be off the blogwaves for a while but am sure I will have stories to tell on my return. Have asked R to shave before he meets any doctors so as to avoid looking like terrorist and frightening staff. He's promised not to flash his Al Quada membership card. Must focus on terrorists so as to comfort self. Must stop writing like Bridget Jones.


Monday, September 05, 2005

Happy Father's Day?

Our first father’s day. R has been talking about it for months. A day of pampering just for him! A celebration of his paternal triumphs! Certainly, an occasion for fellatio! Turns out it wasn’t quite as lovely as he had hoped. I intended to serve him breakfast in bed. Instead I served him my dinner. I vomited all over him before I could move. It’s your unborn twins way of saying Happy Father’s Day, I said (through chunks of last night’s pasta). He would have preferred a card.

The day looked like it was going to get better. O had framed a picture of herself and written a lovely message for her dad (amazing how similar her handwriting is to mine) . It read:

I love you daddy. I smile when you come home. Please don’t bang my head.

She was referring to a dreadful incident a week ago when R accidentally slammed her into an awning. I felt like killing him until I saw the look on his face. Whatever nasty insults I could hurl at him wouldn't come close to what he was flagellating himself with.

So, yes, to show the love of my life I appreciate how great a father he is, I chucked up my innards on him and wrote a passive aggressive card. Blame the pregnancy hormones.

Luckily his own family was going to get me off the hook and upset him even further. His parents phoned from the Emergency ward in the hospital. They’d admitted his dad as he was concerned that he may have had a heart attack. We spent the rest of the day waiting by the phone for updates. His father spent the day in hospital being observed. Turns out his heart is okay but he has a killer case of halitosis.

We ended the day with me vomiting up dinner, kissing R goodnight (fellatio was out of the question) and pretending I was asleep when O started crying. (It's a game we play. Whoever pretends to be asleep better doesn't have to settle her).

R made me promise to not let him get excited for next year’s father’s day.