Friday, January 28, 2011

Blood - It Does a Body Good!

Benjamin's first year of life was rough. By the time he was 7 weeks old, he'd had two transfusions. He spent the week before his first Christmas as well as the week after his first birthday getting transfused, too. He continued spending time in and out of the doc's office for the next six months, when suddenly he seemed to get better, and for a long time, we almost forgot that transfusions were even something to worry about. But alas, the good times had to end.
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It started early one recent morning when the Boo woke with a fever. By the next day, it was obvious that he had fallen prey to a very nasty bug. Then instead of getting better, we saw the familiar signs that it might take more than chicken soup and TLC for him to recover; his skin became pale, his lips looked blue, and his pulse was racing. Worst of all, he just wasn't himself. Instead of being a naughty little pain in my ass, he was sluggish and quiet. Too quiet. So I called the doctor.
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Thus began the Hurry-Up-And-Wait Dance: Hurry to the pediatrician's for initial assessment! Find out that Benjamin's levels are low and rush to the blood draw center for more accurate testing! Go home and wait by the phone for the results! Wait for three hours, watching bad daytime TV in the meantime to get your mind off of things!! Finally, get the call telling you that either (A) the levels are fine so you can stay home, or (B) the levels are too low, so you have to get your ass to the hospital! All the times in the past year and a half, the phone calls were of the "A" variety, so we were surprised to receive the "B" call instead this time. But we did, so off we went. Calliope was pretty furious that she had to be awakened from her nap, and she let me have it the entire drive there:
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As you can see, Benjamin was so out of it that he slept through all that racket.
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Vince met us at the UCLA Med Center where the nurses tried to no avail to start an IV in Benjamin. This was actually rather difficult for me to watch. It's not that I enjoyed seeing my son get poked with needles before, it's just that the last time he had to go through this, he was much younger and not quite as verbal. "No" and "stop" were the only two words that we could really understand. This time, his words came out loud and clear. I heard "I wanna go home!!" quite a few times. Also, "Mama, they're hurting me!" That one went right through my heart. After over an hour of fruitless poking, they stopped. Rather than continue torturing him, the nurses sent us home with instructions to have him drink lots of liquids to plump up his veins and come back in the morning.
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The next morning, there were some familiar faces to greet us. Marisa, the head nurse for pediatric hematology was there with a big hug for Benjamin. So was nurse Charlotte, who remembered us from when we were there last year. Benjamin didn't remember her, but he probably will this time since she gave him a nice toy at the end of his visit. Thanks, Nurse Charlotte!
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We were set up in a room with a nice view of the Med Plaza and Westwood Blvd. Calliope didn't seem to understand that the glass she was pressing up against had no give, and she kept bonking her forehead against it.
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Then it was the moment of truth. Would the nurses be able to place the IV this time? It took a couple of tries, but they were. Hooray! None of the veins in his arms or hands proved viable, so the IV wound up in his foot. At first, he seemed upset about the strange apparatus protruding from it, but once we told him that his foot was now part robot, he got excited. What little boy doesn't dream of being a robot? So we tucked his little robot foot under his blanket, gave him his favorite monkey to clutch in his hands, and the transfusion got underway.
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As he always does during a transfusion, our sweet boy dozed off into a peaceful sleep. Hours later when it was complete, the change in him was huge:
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Haha! Just kidding!! The transformation isn't quite that dramatic, but it is, nonetheless, remarkable.
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Look at those rosy cheeks! Those red lips! If you think Benjamin looks annoyed in the "After" picture, you're right; I was so excited to see him looking healthy that I couldn't stop kissing him the moment he opened his eyes.
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Daddy was happy to see him feeling well, too.
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In the car on the way home, Benjamin was back to his old self. Remember how he was passed out on the way to the hospital even through all of Calliope's screaming? Well, that Boo was a distant memory.


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He's baaaaaack!
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That night, as I was putting Benjamin to bed, I told him that I was so proud of him and what a brave boy he had been that day. He looked me in the eye and said, "Mama, I don't want to be brave." I've become so used to going through all the medical stuff with the kids these past three years that I'm rarely affected by it anymore, but those words brought tears to my eyes. I think it's because they made me realize that he shouldn't have to be brave. More than that, it made me realize that there is only so much that a mother can do to shield her children from some of the more unpleasant aspects of life. So we do what we can do. We surpress the urge to rip to shreds the people who are causing them pain when we know that it's for their own good. We tell them the IV in their feet are magic robot extensions. Most importantly, we make sure that we're there when they open their eyes so we can shower them with love and kisses.
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5 comments:

Rabbit Kinney said...

Hi Lily,
Jean from Rabbit K.

I saw Michelle, John + Sydney a few days ago and thought about you and the kids.

Sooo surprised to read about Benjamin's condition and also glad to read that he is better.

lilyliuchan@gmail.com said...

Hey, Jean! Thanks for your sweet message. I hope you guys are doing well! I think about you whenever I'm driving on Abbott Kinney. :)

Monalisa said...

Lily,

you have a beautiful family, and you're a great fun mom. I am glad to know after all the hard time, your son is healthy and doing well.

:)

Mona

Christine said...

You wrote this story so beautifully.
Here I am sitting in Peet's (where I met you yesterday for the first time), reading the story of your son's transfusion, tears rolling down my cheeks, wiping the snot from my nose just like my son does - ON MY SLEEVE - because I could not rip myself away to get a napkin. I was so engrossed, so moved that I didn't care.

You, and your family, has charmed me.
I'm hooked.

Lily said...

Thank you to everyone who wrote me off- and online to give their support. It means the world to me!