I knew Preston was sick before anyone else. I can’t explain it. I just knew that there was something wrong with my child. Before the first trimester was even over this feeling of dread sank deep into my chest and rooted itself there. And that awful feeling dogged me everyday until his diagnosis of a heart defect. After his diagnosis a new kind of dread took over. I can’t really explain the intensity of fear I felt except to say that it might be similar to sitting in a plane that’s in a nosedive. You’re strapped to this seat but you don’t feel safe, instead you are painfully aware that the fabric wrapped around your lap can’t save you. If you hit the ground at these tremendous speeds you’ll shatter into a thousand separate pieces so that you’re never whole again. To be a parent of a sick child – it’s like being in a plane that never stops plummeting towards the ground.
When my life levelled out I was too exhausted to be relieved and it took me a while to stop flinching at every minor childhood injury or virus. It’s been two years since Preston needed a cardiologist. Two years since I unbuckled myself from that assigned seat. It’s been two years since I realized that the love I have for my children (this intensely joyful celebration of everything that’s good) – has a flipside where the word ‘grief’ is an understatement.
I haven’t had any premonitions since. Nothing to indicate that I was back on the plane.
It started off as headaches. Constant, relentless headaches. We’d had his eyes checked and his vision was 20/20 so we took Gabriel to the doctor. They did a routine blood test and it revealed an oddity. So they repeated his blood work a few months later. The oddity has become a trend. Gabriel has a low white blood cell count – and a low red blood cell count, and a low hematocrit, and his absolute neutrophil count is also low. So he’s been referred to a pediatrician where more intensive tests will be conducted. I don’t know what tests they will be performing or what they will reveal, I only know that I’m staring out at the clouds as the plane lurches under me…