Most of my day today was spent holding my 4-year-old daughter’s hand while she quietly laid in the emergency room hospital bed. My daughter woke up early this morning, crying and screaming for me. She was grasping the back of her head and crying out that something popped. She was inconsolable. I suggested that she must have slept wrong, and helped her change positions (she refused to move).
She settled down just a bit, and I stumbled back into bed. Again, I was awakened to the same crying sound. I gave her a dosage of Tylenol and started the process of deciding whether or not to take her to see a doctor. Two hours passed and my daughter would not let go of her head. She continued to complain of pain. After a brief drop off of one child to a sitter, I phoned her doctor to set an appointment.
No sooner had I hung up the phone, the doctor’s office called right back and urged me to take her to the emergency room in case something neurological had taken place. I quickly scooped my daughter up and hustled to the hospital. The ER doctor suggested a cat scan of the brain and neck. He simply told me in a rather non-emotional way, “I just want to check for anything possibly happening to her vertebrae, or a brain tumor.” Um…or a brain tumor?
This was not the first time these two words have been said to me in regards to my daughter. When she was just 6-months-old, her skull grew so rapidly that her doctor ordered an MRI to rule out a brain tumor. We were her foster parents at the time, and really had no idea what to expect. Thankfully, it was clear. We decided at that time that if the results were not what we wanted, and if she had a brain tumor, we would have continued fostering her. We loved her so much regardless of what the future held.
Throughout the past four years my daughter has complained off and on of headaches, but usually they subside. This one today though was completely unlike any other she had. She literally held the back of her head in her hands all day and would not move. As we waited a couple of hours for the results to be read, I sat next to her, holding her small, soft hand, and just thought about how many other mothers were in my position. I felt fairly confident that the result would be okay, but still, the worry was there. For just a brief moment I pondered the thought of her having a tumor, but quickly forced myself to “not go there”.
The doctor came in and reported that the scan was clear of any tumors, but that the radiologist found an abnormality in the top of her spinal column. They called the neurosurgeon who took a look at it and reported that this was a congenital birth defect with her top vertebrae. Apparently, the vertebrae did not fuse together completely. There is a chance that it could repair itself, but otherwise, it should not be a problem for her growing up, and it did not contribute to today’s events. The doctor advised me to watch her closely, follow-up with her pediatrician, and to report back should her situation worsen.
My drive home was full of thoughts about what had transpired today. Again, I thought about all of the other mothers whose news about their babies had not turned out in their favor. I also thought about my own mother who endured my childhood health problems. I thought about those times she must have held my hand and endured through the sleepless nights of the month I was in the hospital following my hysterectomy.
One would think I should know this by now, but I learned, or better yet, learned again today that our health is not a guarantee. Our children’s health is not guaranteed either. One day we may be holding their hands walking them to school, and the next, we may be holding their hands waiting for test results.
My daughter is tucked in her bed as I’m typing this. She is fine for now, and we are supposed to follow-up with her doctor tomorrow. I’ll end this post with the following thoughts that occurred to me today:
Love your little ones. Don’t take any day for granted with them. Appreciate the moments, however small they may be, with your children. These moments provide the fuel to continue doing the best job we can as a parents. It is also in these moments that we can find subtle reminders of the blessing of children.