So, Saturday I get up early (because there was sun poking me in the eye, not really because I wanted or needed to) and got the family ready to spend all morning at a swim meet for the boys. While lots of kids, including mine, kick ass, we also cheer for six year olds hanging from the ropes and nearly drowning in a revised freestyle dog paddle type of movement. This requires supplies.
I packed towels and energy bars, chapstick and sunscreen and then was greeted by Son Number One coming down the stairs clutching his stomach. Apparently he was dying. Sad, I know, but someone needed to feed the dogs and get his ass to the swim meet, so I overlooked the dying part and pushed forward with the day. This kid can swim. He’s brown and musclely and looks cool with water beading up across his broad back while doing one of the prettiest fly strokes you’ve ever seen a kid do – but he invariably gets nerves before a meet, so I chalked it up to that and pretty much ignored him.
Number Two Son and husband (Big Dude Little Glasses) joined us, and before long we were poolside. Number one kept complaining about the tummy, and added that it hurt to breathe…which is when I started feeling a teensy bit guilty for dragging him out to win mommy another ribbon. But he did his warm-ups, and his first race, a 50 meter fly. Won it. One race down, two to go. Number Two Son competed in a 25m fly, won it, then did a 50m free. Even though he completely forgot it was a 50 meter race until he’d already rested for 5 seconds on the wall, he still won it. Now Number One was back up for a 100 meter freestyle. He swam it, he won it by a tenth of a second to a slippery kid who was at least 40 pounds lighter than he is. They shook hands and then, while still in the water, he looked my way. And his lip quivered. And large, sloppy tears started falling down his smooth tan cheeks.
He walked as quickly as he could over to us, and without looking directly at anyone, fell dramatically on a blanket, and covered his head with a towel. His big brown body start to shake and sob and I could hear him struggling to breathe. Great. I killed him. Joining him under his towel, I learned it felt like there was a knife in his lungs everytime he breathed in. Super. Mommy o’ the year, I am. My mind raced through every possible diagnosis. Bruised diaphragm, exploded spleen, popped lung, asthma, gall bladder attack, appendicitis, lung cancer – oh crap, he has lung cancer! This is when I told Big Dude Little Glasses we were leaving for the emergency room.
In the car, I phoned our very cool friend who happens to run the ER at the hospital closest to our house. It’s a great facility, but it’s even better for kids b/c it’s super close to the real children’s hospital, which means no one ever takes kids there. By the time we arrived, she was on the phone with the attending folks and we were greeted by the nicest 6'5" male pediatrician in cow-covered scrubs you’re likely to meet.
He went through all the typical questions, looked puzzled and ordered chest x-rays. A-ha. It IS lung cancer. I wondered silently when this kid had taken up smoking – or if he was sneaking out and hanging out in jazz clubs. (That'd be my genes.)
The helpless feeling while watching your child get x-rays is hard to explain. Strangers in a dark room expose your scared baby to radiation, and you must remain behind a wall with a little window for YOUR safety. Not exactly how the mama-bear instinct usually plays out. The boy was scared, and asked in between xrays if he was going to need surgery.
I turned around at one point and saw the skeleton of my strong and giant boy up on a monitor and had a weird flashback to seeing the first pictures of him on ultrasound. His glowing little ribs and perfect symmetry of hips… but there were some scary black spots – one on the right and down low. I assumed appendix, swallowed hard and followed him back to the examination room.
After a big dose of immodium mixed with Maalox – YUM – the boy was starting to look a little ragged and green. The fluorescent lights exaggerated big dark circles under his eyes and he asked if it was okay if he lay down. That was it – I would be sleeping in this hospital tonight while rallying friends to start a dinner circle for my family.
As I lay my head back against the wall to feel really sorry for myself, the doc entered the room.
Cool Cow-Covered Doc: “Well…the xrays look good.”
My secret thought: “Uh, dude – did you see the big huge bursting appendix – the spotty lungs? Geez, I shoulda gone to the children’s hospital…”
Cool Cow-Covered Doc: “And, everything else looks really good.”
Me outloud: “So...???”
Cool Co- Covered Doc: “He’s dehydrated. And, really constipated. The xrays show a lot of backed up waste. Does he poop regularly?”
Okay –wait. He’s 11. Please, please, ask HIM the poop questions. You’re just embarrassing us both. Seriously, Cow-Jammies.
I gathered myself and explained that I no longer join him in the restroom, but am assuming by the ½ hour visits and subscription to Sports Illustrated that is delivered directly to his bathroom that yes, he is indeed, pooping.
The conversation went on, the boy was given a Gatorade, orders to drink more water, and finally, his walking papers.
As I walked with him out of the big automatic doors, I looked at the satisfied child, relieved that he wasn't going under the knife, and realized that we had just been given the diagnosis of “Ma’am, your boy here is full of shit.”