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
(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
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.