I was four years old when Jaws II came out in theaters. I stood in the sun eating a Pop-sickle and watched my neighbors drive down the street to see movie on a hot summer’s day. I was wearing sandals and a white sundress with Raggedy Ann and Andy iron-ons bordering the hem and could see my shadow falling off the sidewalk and spilling over the curb. I remember this because I knew they were going to see a scary movie, and I admired how the “big kids,” were eager to see something so terrible. I’ve actually never seen Jaws II, and I’m almost forty. I never wanted to see the movie because hearing that tag line over and over and over again . . “Just when you thought it was safe. . .” was plenty for me.
Last week Liam endured his third blood draw this year. Liam’s platelets and white blood cell counts are lower than desired, and his red blood cells and hematocrit levels are higher than normal. This may mean nothing, or it may mean he needs a cath. We don’t know yet. After my unpleasant brain situation turned out to blessedly be “only migraines,” I was hesitant to write anything about Liam’s abnormal blood draws. “We don’t know yet . . .wait and see,” seems like the refrain to our family theme song. Except this Altos sung this song so many time her faith is failing and her concerns and rising,
Liam doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to get a fourth blood draw in a couple of weeks. For that one they are taking an extra bottle of blood that will be tested without a draw if Liam shows no improvement. I must collect the story written in Liam’s blood and coordinate sending it the CHOP for his fifth blood draw there. At first I was dismissive of this blood situation because it was just a second draw. But as they drawing of my child’s blood adds up in vials, it made me realize that “most” ten-year old boys, even in our circle of friends, don’t make this many visits to the lab for blood draws. I think “more” ten-year-old boys are playing baseball or watching scary movies this summer.
A few days ago on our family walk, I heard Liam tell Moira she should have her blood drawn because she’s never done it before and the rest of us have. Then I watched her pull away and dance and skip down the sidewalk, far away from the rest of us. I watched her straight strong back, her perfect gait, her graceful bounding down the sidewalk, and Liam stayed close to us. While we were walking, it occurred to me that Moira’s never had an IV. She’s never had stitches. The only specialist whose ever seen Moira is an allergist for pet hair testing. Moira has never stayed overnight in the hospital since her birth.
Moira is just like most children, just not most children we know because our world is full of CHD survivors. In a world where I’ve encountered close to one thousand families who have a heart child, Moira with her healthy body is the odd-one-out. This makes me feel ashamed because I’ve not been grateful enough for Moira’s amazing health. The fact is, I really hadn’t noticed how extraordinarily healthy she is.
Maybe I didn’t notice how great Moira’s health has been because Liam’s health has been fairly stable too. He hasn’t been an inpatient at a hospital for almost five years. He visited the ER and had an IV. He racked up thousands and thousands of dollars worth of Holter monitor tests. He is currently experiencing an increasing number blood draws now. Yet, not being an actual inpatient, I was getting a little too comfortable with the pacemaker reprieve and the break from hospitalization. Maybe I was getting too used to a normal that didn’t involve a major upheaval. I don’t know yet. Yet, I suddenly have the feeling I’ve been pretending for the past five years and it leaves me sheepish.
Lately, with the blood draws and the unpleasant possibilities they hold, I wonder if this hot summer is a preamble to a new crisis. I wonder as Moira flies down the sidewalk while Liam holds Jim’s right hand and my left hand, if this is what it looks like at the top of our lives before we begin a new fall. Then, I think about my migraine scars that are really nothing much compared to what they might have been, and I shake my head for being silly. The thing is I’ve been through so much and know too much to ever be certain of anything. I don’t know yet. I may be, once again, worried over nothing, but I don’t know what happens next. I guess I’ll get back in the water. Safe or not, we keep swimming.