One day Anni was twirling and singing one of her original compositions.
"It's my gift!" she declared.
Dizzy, she fell with spectacular gracelessness.
Laying on her back on the tile floor she began flapping her arms and legs
as if she were making a snow angel.
"Falling down is also a gift!" says she.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

dangerous things

So all this worrying about Annika having another bleed, and the thing that's sending us back to Chicago in a very worried state of mind? Her liver, which has held up shockingly well so far. I took Annika for a blood draw Monday evening, and her liver enzymes have shot through the roof since last week. Her hemoglobin, on the other hand, which is the lab to look for if you're worried about bleeding, has actually gone up since last week (ummm, perhaps I should add that that is good, for those of you who don't carry binders of your child's labwork to follow trends - actually, I don't do that either, but I think it's a very good idea). Jörg and I tried to remember the last time her enzymes were this high (in the 500's, for those liver families out there who appreciate numbers), and we could only remember pre-transplant numbers like that (well, except for the numbers after any kind of surgery, when they go outrageously high and are generally to be ignored if you'd like to keep your sanity). We'll be heading for Chicago around 5a.m. Thursday morning for an ultrasound before seeing Dr. Alonso in clinic. Our nurse practitioner, Joan, said that Dr. Alonso was a bit worried about Annika's shunt, given that kind of a jump in numbers, although any kind of clot that cuts off blood flow to the liver could also be at fault. Or any of a million other things. Those labs, those numbers that we parents watch like highly caffeinated daytraders sitting in front of a stock-ticker, are just enough to get you all wound up and thinking crazy thoughts, but completely and utterly non-specific as to kind or severity of the problem. Of course, I'll be taking along two suitcases, one for Annika and me to stay at the hospital, and another for Frankie, who will go spend a week with our good friends, the Martins, for a week if Annika needs to stay. Right now, there's no space at the Kohl's House and, even if there were, I can't see leaving Annika alone in the hospital at night, and Frankie can't stay in the room with Annika. Frankie, I hope, will be having too much fun with the irrepressible Riley and Shelby to be too upset over the separation.
Annika's mood has just been outrageously good the past couple of days. Even going to get her labs drawn on Monday evening was like a little party. We listened, for the millionth time, to the Shrek soundtrack, and Annika sang along with "I'm On My Way" in an impressively authentic-sounding Scottish accent ("I'm on my weeeee!"). Between songs, I heard a huge sigh from the back seat. "I wish I could be older. A grown-up, like you." "You will be, someday." "No. I mean, right now. I wish I was old like you, right now or maybe tomorrow." Leaving aside the description of me as old, I decided to pursue this conversation, as I love it when Annika goes all philosophical. "So. Annika, why do you want to be a grown-up right now?" "Well...I could drive a car. That would be lots of fun." (Oh, yes. Annika driving a car. That will be lots of fun. As if we don't have insurance troubles enough right now. And I've become so accustomed to having her in my sight all the time. How will I ever be able to turn over a set of keys to her? Maybe some sort of spyware camera mounted to the rearview mirror?) "And I could put CDs in for music all by myself." (That's more like it. Freedom and responsibility mean that you can choose your own music! Those are the kinds of childhood daydreams that let a parent sleep well at night.) Then her voice got really excited, "And I could touch dangerous things." "Oh. OK." So there's adulthood, according to Annika: driving, putting in any CD you want to hear, and touching dangerous things. Mental images of knives, stovetop burners, electrical outlets, and all the millions of other more innocuous seeming possibilities for physical harm that surround us every day in our cozy home flashed through my head. How soon, exactly, do kids develop that taste for forbidden fruit? At 5, maybe 6 months? Or is it just that, at 5 years, she's already figuring out that risk carries the threat of injury, but also the thrilling prospect of great reward? We're not exactly a household of risk-takers, ourselves. Unless you count the fact that I use less than the recommended amount of laundry detergent in our washer, and I've never left conditioner on my hair for more than 10 seconds. Overall, we try to live life smack in the middle, far from the exciting edges where both lottery jackpots and financial ruin lurk just 2 hidden steps away. But, of course, then I realize that living life in the middle hasn't really saved us from the threat of financial ruin, anyway. Why? Because we decided to have kids, and one of them turned out to have major health issues, which eventually pushed us to the exciting edge of healthcare in this country. On one hand, we hit the jackpot, living in a country in which medicine is so advanced and available that our daughter has a shot at living her life for many years to come. And now we've gone to the other extreme, as well. Facing up to the possibility of financial ruin that can devastate a family living in a country without universal healthcare. I think every parent realizes that having kids is one of those "touching dangerous things" decisions of adulthood. Even if your children are born healthy and continue along their healthy lives, just having and holding and caring for these creatures means that you are forevermore vulnerable. That you will forevermore worry, every time they head out alone, without your protection. Even if heading out alone only means joining a class of other kindergartners, being led by the kindest-eyed teacher you've ever seen. There will always be that worry, and that inevitable pain, since we parents know that no one makes it through life unscathed. Taking on the care of a child is probably one of the riskiest things we do as adults, emotionally speaking anyway. And it's not like that risk ever goes away. I watch my own parents and sometimes I wonder if all this isn't even harder on them sometimes than it is on me. Not only do they have a grandchild that they worry about, but I know they hate to see me worry, too. Speaking of my parents, my mom called me a few days ago and let me know that Unidentified Fuzzy Orange Guy is thought to be a hedgehog. And, as I suspected, Frankie was the one who discovered Mr. Scary Sound and just had to have him. Yes, my mom said that she did know about the terrifying noises coming from his tummy, but she just figured that must be what hedgehogs sound like. I'm pretty sure my kids totally lucked out in the Grandma department. So wish us luck on our trip to Chicago tomorrow. So far, Annika is only scheduled for an ultrasound, not to be admitted to the hospital. I don't think we've ever not seen Annika admitted after an ultrasound, particularly in response to pretty horrible lab values. But my Pollyanna personality still holds out hope that maybe those yucky numbers were just a lab error. Hey! It could happen. p.s. I finally responded to the comments on this post. Sorry I'm so slow. I just realized that people actually asked me direct questions and such. I may actually get to my email inbox tonight, too.


Blogger Elle said...

I'll pray for lower enzyme numbers. My son's numbers hit the 20,000 mark this time around, and somehow that amazing organ recovered. Go figure. I love touching dangerous things too.

3/01/2006 6:40 PM  
Blogger Rowan said...

I hate and love this post. I love the way you put things. I love the touching dangerous things analogy. I even laughed at the thought of Annika driving, adding to your insurance woes. As if that's even a drop in the bucket, right now.

I hate that you are having to go back to Chicago, and why. I hate all the prospects that brings.

I'm hoping that the next post finds more lovable things than not.
We'll be thinking of you all.

3/01/2006 6:58 PM  
Blogger Shelli said...

Luck! To you and to Annika!

3/01/2006 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Crystal said...

I hope and pray that everything goes well, and Annika can go back home and continue to enjoy her childhood ponderings! You are in my prayers!

3/01/2006 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Joanna said...

OK everything is crossed, I hate that you're going back to Chicago already. Oh, wonderful Jen, Frankie will have a ball. It amazes me that lab numbers can be like that and yet your child carries on as normal. Here's hoping this gets resolved quickly and simply,

3/01/2006 7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tons of prayers heading to Chicago with you tomorrow morning, Moreena!

3/01/2006 7:19 PM  
Blogger Moreena said...

OK, Elle. Those are just insane numbers. Right after Anni's transplant, when we were getting labs off a donated liver that had been removed from its original owner, chopped in half and then sewn back into place, the highest she went was 10,000 or so. Your guy's liver gives off some crazy enzyme action!

3/01/2006 7:34 PM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Crossing my fingers and adding my prayers that you won't need those suitcases tomorrow.

Annika has excellent taste in music. She can come pick out the cds for us any time.

3/01/2006 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Beanie Baby said...

Oh! Oh! Oh!

*waves hand in the air*


I finally got that package in the mail to Kohl's house. I don't know if it will be there when you are there, but maybe worth asking?

3/01/2006 7:35 PM  
Blogger Rev Dr Mom said...

Prayers for all of you in Chicago, that your stay is brief, and all is well.

3/01/2006 8:43 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

You are heavy on my mind tonight, Moreena - as well as that precious little girl. I am about to auction off the ugliest artwork ever on her behalf (it is, however, "award winning"!).

3/01/2006 8:52 PM  
Blogger Moreena said...

Andrea (Beanie Baby) - OK! Silver lining time!

Jessica - Thank you so much. I loved the story of your painting, bad artwork or not.

3/01/2006 8:58 PM  
Anonymous peripateticpolarbear said...

I have always wanted to touch dangerous things.

Here's hoping that your stay in my kind of town is short and sweet!

3/01/2006 8:59 PM  
Blogger ccw said...

Fingers crossed that all goes well.

3/01/2006 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Tammy & Janna said...

We're sending prayers your way. We will be thinking of you and hoping for the best of news...whatever that may be.

3/01/2006 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Tammy & Janna said...

We're sending prayers your way. We will be thinking of you and hoping for the best of news...whatever that may be.

3/01/2006 9:54 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

I can only join others in hoping that the numbers will turn out to be the right ones, and if not the right ones, then the good enough ones.

3/01/2006 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

thank you so much for answering my question about 'translantic transactions'.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Anni today!
Best wishes,

3/02/2006 2:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keeping Annika in our prayers. ((Hugs))
Michelle (Jack's Mom)

3/02/2006 5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God go with you. Keeping you in my prayers and hoping this is just something *freaky* and you'll have a quick trip. Love Annika's thoughts of growing old and dangerous things. LOL

Take care and keep us posted.


3/02/2006 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Miche said...

Warm wishes and healing thoughts!

3/02/2006 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Kristy and Ashlee from liverfamilies said...

Good luck!! We will keep you in our prayers. Did you guys get the package with the homeade scarves in it?!?! Hope you liked them. Annika GET WELL SOON!!! I will pray for no impatient this time!!!

3/02/2006 7:33 AM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Love, prayers and devout hopes that those numbers are just mad and mean nothing. Love the thought of Anni driving...with her determination, other road users had definitely better beware.
Thinking of you all, as ever xxx

3/02/2006 8:13 AM  
Blogger CLMama said...

Praying for Anni and you, Moreena. This was a wonderful, interesting post. Such eloquence you have. Amazing. You're a fabulous writer. Thank you for sharing yourself with us through your journeling of Anni's journey.

Hope you are back home very soon!

3/02/2006 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Jamie said...

You really should write a book. I know I've mentioned that before. Seriously. I'd buy it and read it. And like it too.

I'm sorry about Annika's enzyme numbers and sorry you have to make another LONG trip to the city. I've been thinking of Annika and praying for all of you. I'll keep it up.

3/02/2006 10:08 AM  
Blogger halloweenlover said...

Hugs, and crossed fingers and prayers from me too. I hope the lab numbers were very very wrong and that you come home as quickly as possible.

Maybe Annika could play with just a few dangerous things? Maybe dangerous on the lower end of the spectrum?

3/02/2006 10:23 AM  
Blogger moxiemomma said...

oy! i've just seen this and you've probably already had the ultrasound, so i hope you got good news and are already on your way back home.

3/02/2006 10:31 AM  
Blogger Yankee T said...

You are right. You never stop worrying. I'm just thankful for every day. You're in my thoughts, as always.

3/02/2006 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thinking of you as you travel for the ultrasound....prayers prayers prayers for beautiful images...for no that you may continue your wonderful stay at home!!

3/02/2006 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Kim, mom to Sami and Kyle said...

I hope all is going well today and am keeping Anni in my prayers! You are the best writer in the world - you really out to write books someday!

3/02/2006 12:06 PM  
Blogger angela marie said...


Even though I am a med tech and I ABHOR 'lab error'...I am crossing my fingers and praying to God that this is all it is.

3/02/2006 12:09 PM  
Blogger susan said...

I've been thinking of you all day..hope things are going OK and that you're not unpacking.

3/02/2006 4:05 PM  
Blogger Uccellina said...

Best luck to all of you. I am spreading the fundraising word among my non-blog-savvy family and friends.

3/02/2006 5:24 PM  
Blogger liz said...

I'm praying too. Kisses all around

3/02/2006 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Becca - momofnataliebear said...

We're praying...God Bless the Martin family...

3/02/2006 9:09 PM  
Blogger Badger said...

Thinking of you, Moreena.

3/02/2006 11:46 PM  
Blogger Eileen said...

I hope that your trip to Chicago has a good outcome.

3/03/2006 3:39 AM  
Anonymous anni metz said...

i hope everything is going / did go well in chicago!!! i'm keeping my fingers crossed...

ps: jamie said you should write a book... which would definitely bring in a bit of money for you. how's that for killing two birds with one stone?!

3/03/2006 9:40 AM  
Blogger Marc D Zarowin said...

Living and loving anyway...oh dear, I'm sure there are tears, and I hope they gain outlet, along with the fullest laughs.

I've found your blog via hunting for things Alice Trillin, with whom I remotely, and yes, even richly, fell in love with, reading Calvin Trillin's Ode to his beautiful, sweet, creative, loving, lovable, gem of a creature.

I read CT's piece when in hospital due to a venal and voracious flu bug, but thankfully, I was let go after four days. Now I plan at least a another week of nursing my very imperfect body.

My strikingly (to me) strong identification with CT's love for Alice came, in part, from fact I became disabled and thus not able to work when only 41. I know will, alone, will not do. It's imperfection/unreality nonetheless does not dissuade me keeping on. Even after I fall, which happens to me as well, on a trip

Thank you for never ever giving up on caring for Annika. I already know love will never be absent.

4/12/2006 11:52 AM  

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