Monday, June 21, 2010

Swirling Inside The Mind

Midnight is the worst time to be awake. Especially when you have been awake the whole preceding day and you know it's going to be at least eight or nine hours before you are going to be able to sleep again. Such is job that I do, working nights in the ICU of a pediatric hospital.

During these dead hours your mind becomes a kind of vortex of thought processes that refuse to stop swirling around inside the mind and they can get at you after a time. Sleep deprivation is a killer because it amplifies everything - especially your worries, your stresses and your fears. 

I'm worried right now. I need to talk about it - here - where I can do as loudly as I like knowing that it's in complete silence. 

Lucy & Me, waiting to board a flight - my umpteenth, her first.

My daughter Lucy is 8 months old now and she is beautiful. Of course I am biased - no secrets there - but that's just the way she is. Lucy has developed swimmingly. She is getting the hang of semi solid foods, is interacting and is very playful, she is almost crawling now. She can get herself into position to initiate crawling but she hasn't quite worked out the final launch phase. She ends up dropping into a commando crawl position and drags herself along the ground as though she were ducking enemy fire. When I pick her up, she grabs both sides of beard and buries her face in my cheek, giving me the sloppiest kisses. Salubrious affection I think I'll call it. My 4 year old son, Xavy, adores her, dotes on her - always wants to look after her and talk to her. 

But there is one thing that Lucy is doing that is causing me and my serioso great concern. Lucy's head is drooping to one side - as though it is too big for her to hold in a normal position. Her neck is very stiff and whenever we try to straighten her head it is clear that it causes her pain - a lot of pain. 

And it's getting serious. 

We began to notice it a couple months ago and we made an appointment with the Pediatrician. She actually stopped doing it for a while and we took her along to the Pediatrician who examined her and deemed it to be nothing serious - BUT - if it were to come back again, we were to make a follow up appointment with him immediately so he could investigate it further. Which we have now done - so we are left to wait a few days now before we can get her seen to. 

This is the pointy end of being a parent. 

I could be worrying myself silly over nothing and it could just be a simple nerve entrapment or muscle strain that she has inflicted upon herself but - and this is where my mind starts working over time - I fear that it could be something more sinister.

When I was 15 I was diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cord tumor - a schwannoma - which was then diagnosed as being Type 2 Neurofibromatosis. NF is a rare condition where tumors, usually benign ones, grow out of the brain and spinal cord and in some cases the cranial nerves. There's a lot of information out there on the condition so I won't bore you with the details (besides, I'm freaking myself out while I am writing this). Suffice to say there is evidence to suggest that the condition is genetic (ie. it can be passed from one generation to the next). It is too premature to start hypothesizing anything right now until we can have the Pediatrician's input - whose clinical knowledge is far greater than mine could ever be. But at 1AM in the morning when sleep deprivation is at it's worst, these are the thought processes that my sub par mind begins to toss around - the evil little shit (my mind I mean).

As I said earlier, in all other respects, Lucy is a perfect infant and I am probably fretting over nothing. 

Our dog Simon, who is getting kinda grumpy in his older years - he turns 14 on the 26th of this month - he adores Lucy in a way I've not seen him behave around other children. He is very serene and calm around her - inquisitive and he sniffs her face in a protective way (only when I am holding her however - I am well aware that he is a dog after all). But, you know what I mean...Simon is unique in that way. And I trust him. I often find myself wondering if he can sense anything amiss about her neck. I've heard and read about those dogs who can detect cancers in people - I saw a documentary somewhere on them, once - while I was researching for the novel.

I work in an environment where children and their parents live through peril every day. I take a private comfort in knowing that it's not me that's living their experience, that at the end of my shift I can go home and switch off. 

I don't want to be one of them. 



  1. Oh my word you are not kidding about nighttime being the evilest time of all for your brain. Two nights ago, Rob and I stayed up later than usual because neither of us could sleep. Finally as he was drifting off, I burst into tears. When he asked me what was wrong, I finally admitted that I was worried about him dying before me. Not something I usually stress out about, but it was late at night. And in the morning I was fine.

    And you're right - Lucy probably is pulling a muscle in her neck or sleeping funny on it or something. I mean, cricks in your neck can HURT. But if it is something more serious, at least you're discovering it sooner rather than later and can get it taken care of quickly.

    My dad has a WEIRD condition where a section of a vein that runs through his brain is enlarged. He has to take medicine to be able to talk! It's not *dangerous* necessarily, although it does increase his chances of having a stroke. But it could be hereditary, and if I take after anyone it's him. So there's a chance I could develop it one day, or my kids could have it, etc. So I kind of feel your pain, a little bit.

    Don't know how comforting that was, but I'll say a prayer for y'all today.

  2. Your daughter is in my thoughts and prayers. Children are the most wonderful gift...they also are the cause for the most worry and the most gray hair...

    Parenting is THE BEST job. It is also the hardest. Keep us posted and update us after the M.D. appt.