MamaBlogger365 – Sometimes Heroes Come in Small Packages by Loren Christie
It was supposed to be JUST a stomach virus. After all, I thought I had one the previous weekend. His symptoms were the same as mine had been: nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain, except he had a 101.7 fever as well. My illness lasted about four hours. His started Saturday and was still going strong on Monday morning.
“Do you want to go to school today?” I asked, pulling the shades up in his room.
“No, Mommy, I feel sick and I’m afraid I’ll throw up at school,” he said.
“All right,” I answered, thinking this was one nasty virus. “But you have to at least get dressed and come with me to the bus stop.”
He seemed to struggle a little at the idea of it, then reaching toward me answered, “Ok, Mommy, but you have to help me out of bed. My tummy hurts.”
That’s when I knew something was really wrong. I pressed on his stomach, and he didn’t scream or cry.
“It’s just really sore,” he said.
I thought: I’m going to take him to his doctor and say — It’s probably a stomach virus but I just need you to confirm that for me and tell me it’s not his appendix. But I knew it was. In the car he looked ashen. In the examination room, he was asked to reach up with his left hand and hop on his left foot, but my basketball-loving son couldn’t jump. That’s when the doctor nodded to me and patted my back before walking out to arrange for us to go to the Emergency Room.
Two hours later my third grader was being prepped for surgery. As they wheeled him away, my husband, not knowing what to do with himself, made one of his completely out-of-place comments that got a chuckle from the surrounding hospital staff.
“Have fun in there,” he said.
And I looked at him, glassy-eyed and half-annoyed as my son answered,” “Ok, Dad, I will.”
When the doors closed in my face I felt like I was going insane, angrily asking my husband, “What did you just tell him?” and laughing in spite of myself.
For the next hour I sat in the waiting room clutching a clear plastic bag containing my oldest’s sneakers and clothing. The whole time I kept telling myself that it was only an appendectomy — a completely routine procedure — but I still felt like crying. Instead I just sat there, like a deer in headlights, wondering what was going to happen next.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Christie, it’s not like we’re gonna go in there blind; he’ll have blood work and maybe a CAT scan first,” one very green doctor had told me when we arrived at the hospital ER. My eyes widened because — OMG! — he was talking about making holes in my kid.
The surgeon put my mind at ease; he was obviously an expert.
“I have five kids of my own; I know how you feel as a parent,” he said. “This is a common occurrence for his age group. He’ll be my third appendectomy today,” the surgeon added. Toward the end of the procedure he came out and led me into this small blue room, that I assumed was painted in an effort to sooth ER visitors. There was good news — no perforation and the infection was entirely contained in the appendix.
“It looked a lot better than I expected when we went in,” he said. My sigh of relief could have blown me all the way down in the hallway to the bedside of my eight-year-old, who was then waking up and looking around for his parents.
You think about crazy things when you’re trapped in a hospital overnight. While my husband would have taken over at our son’s bedside, nothing could move me from the spot. I was so nervous I wore the same clothes for three days. But there are things I want to remember about this experience — mainly, what I learned about my son.
I was truly impressed by his bravery. When he found out he needed surgery I watched him ask the doctor calmly exactly what would happen. The surgeon drew X’s in pen on his belly where the cuts would be made. When they wheeled him away he was sitting up — nervous, but forcibly composed — so as not to worry me.
In recovery, I called my parents and put the phone up to his ear. My father asked him how his surgery was.
“It was fine! I’m great,” he responded. My husband took a picture of his punch-drunk smile in the recovery room and it was evident that he was making an effort to reassure us that he was all right.
During the next 24 hours, in the middle of the night when he woke up feverish and noticed I was sitting beside him in the dark writing articles on my laptop, my son said, “I’m sorry I’m messing up your work, Mommy.”
And as it turns out, this little boy is so very wise. When we came home, he took off the rubber bracelet that the nurses put on him in the hospital.
On it was written: “Hope, Courage, Endurance, Bravery.”
“Give this to Papa,” my little hero told me.
Bio: Loren Christie is a mom and journalist for three local weekly newspapers in NY. Check out her book, I Hope God is Laughing: Confessions of an Imperfect Parent on Amazon.com. A portion of the proceeds goes to The Life Center of Long Island, a non-profit organization that supports mothers in crisis and their children.
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Photo credit: Stethoscope by Kim Newberg