Honesty has been hard won in our house.
I have perfected the specialist visit banter.
“Oh this isn’t our first rodeo,” I’ve quipped more than once, always with a polite smile and a nod from the medical assistant.
The medical lingo? I speak it.
I have casually walked into the hardest of visits, sharply inhaling, so I don’t completely lose it.
It’s how moms of preemies and special needs kids roll. We know the drill. Ask all the questions, even the hard ones, know when to push and when to let up, how to handle billing and where all the best parking spots are at the doctor’s office. I can fill out medical history forms in my sleep. I have the insurance numbers – all of them – memorized. Luke knows exactly where to stand for his weight, where to turn for his height and how to hold his arm for the blood pressure cuff.
He’s pretty seasoned himself.
Yesterday, we went in for his annual visit to the cardiologist. Luke was born with two holes in his heart, one we corrected with surgery and the other we’ve been monitoring closely. I have said more prayers to close that heart, without medical intervention, than I’ve drunk Dr Peppers.
Just before the doctor walked in to check out Luke, I heard a knock at the door. A sweet pediatric nurse practitioner bounded into the room and extended her hand. “Hi, I’m Julie. You don’t know me, but I’ve been reading your blog.” She continued, “I’ve read your story and been praying for you all along.” For a moment, it felt like I wasn’t really in a doctor’s office, but in the company of someone who knew about the preciousness of life. Indeed, she does. That moment of grace, that encounter with Christ, has happened every step of the way of Luke’s journey. I have no other explanation except to say that God has great plans for Luke, just as He does for all of us.
During the echocardiogram, my eyes have been trained for what to look for on the screen. Where exactly blue (outflow of blood) and red (inflow of blood) should be and what muscles should and should not be moving. My eye caught it, but I held my breath, afraid to say it out loud, for fear that it might not be true.
So when Dr. J came back into the room after the echo and gave us the news that his heart was completely healed, I did not believe him. The hole had completely closed, without complication. There is no buildup of tissue, no obstructions, no prolapsed heart wall. Nothing. We thought it might close before he turned ten, but I stopped pinning my hopes on it.
And then it happened.
Dr. J looked at us, smiled, and said, “Well, I guess you get to fire another specialist.” And then I cried.
There is a part of me that feels tremendously guilty. I feel guilt because the news was so good for Luke and I know the same isn’t true for other kids. It’s the mom in me, I think. When we’re happy, we want the world right along with us.
As we left, I glanced into a patient room and saw a mom holding her newborn tightly to her chest. I could see the fear in her eyes. It was like looking in a mirror six years ago.
You see, back then, the tears fell because I feared that I could not take one more bad diagnosis. Not a single other specialist. I could not walk this road. I couldn’t. The road looked so long, so hard, so full of suffering.
It was. Damn, was it ever.
Today, we walked out into the hallway and I gripped Luke’s hand with my left and caught the tears with my right. You know that ugly sob that starts deep down? I was trying hard not to let it escape. Today, my tears fell out of thanksgiving.
“Mom, do you think I’ll miss P.E.?” Luke asked.
“Nah,” I replied, quickly swallowing those tears. “You’re going to be right on time.”