Day 264: Items Purchased:0, Temptation Radar: 0
Saturday, September 24, 2011
My little boy just played in his very first soccer game. Perhaps it should be said that my excitement lies primarily in the fact that Owen is a member of a team for the very first time. This is,in part, true. “First times” are usually commemorative, but there is more to celebrate here. About this time last year, and in the early morning, I heard my son’s panic-stricken voice cry from his room, “Mom! I can’t walk!” I sprinted in to find him sitting on the floor, knees completely swollen, unrecognizable as knees but with more similarity to 2 enormous grapefruits. He was scooting across the room toward me and crying. He looked scared. I was petrified. I rushed him to the urgent care clinic where a physician examined him and ordered blood work. A few tests and 2 additional doctor visits ruled out allergic reactions, inflammatory insect bites, but revealed the likelihood of a far more formidable opponent: Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. A consult was made with experts at University of Florida Shands Hospital in Gainesville. A guru in children’s infectious diseases and a leading rheumatologist agreed to review his case. For the next 8 weeks, I was instructed to treat Owen’s inflammation and pain with high doses of Ibuprofen administered 3 times a day. I don’t remember much about the period between the first incidence of immobility & tests and the actual diagnosis. However, I remember very clearly the pediatrician saying
“Aimee, He won’t play soccer.”
“Oh, okay. Until this is resolved?”
“No. He won’t play soccer.”
I was just preparing to sign him up, a little late, not realizing the deadline for early regsitration had passed. Those plans crushed, immediately, by three little letters: JRA. Children with JRA, as the acronym states, don’t get better. It’s degenerative. It is an autoimmune disorder that wreaks havoc on the child’s body, beginning with their joints, and over time, depending on the severity of the autoimmune response, their systemic organs as well. I remember the term polyarticular…meaning multiple joints. This condition became manifest over the next several days when the swelling became noticeable in his ankles, wrists, fingers and hip. He experienced much discomfort and winced in pain if an area was compromised. I remember some of the doctor’s instructions: no running, no weight bearing exercise, no gum. No gum? The jaw is a joint and a difficult one to correct and for which to manage pain. No gum. The physician gave me a support group contact, telephone and literature. Wait. I wanted to sign up for soccer…not a support group. Was this our new course? Was I to accept this diagnosis? Did I have a choice? The following Monday, I hopped a plane to Dallas, Texas where I had an unavoidable meeting for work. I left Steve sobbing. I left Steve with a construction deadline in the bathroom upstairs. I left Steve with two small children, one who couldn’t walk. I left Steve with the diagnosis.
We had 24 hours to finish reconstruction on the upstairs bathroom in order to get our re-finance loan approved.
24 hours. 24 hours changed everything.
How would I reconstruct Owen’s legs?
While at the meeting, an email came from one of my very best friends. Thinking that she’d heard the news about Owen, I opened it looking comfort. Comfort, I did not find. She was looking for answers. She wanted an explanation. At some point, I’d hurt her. I didn’t know where some point was, but it was apparent that she had things to say. In that moment a Pandora’s Box of sorts, released years of resentment. I had no idea. Suddenly, I could not feel my own legs.
Sitting in a large empty ballroom, in a Dallas conference center, I took another hit.
Owen’s legs are broken.
My friend’s heart is broken.
I am broken.
How do I fix this?
Could God? 3 months later, via a miracle, Owen’s diagnosis was reversed. He was retested. Completely normal. We had a series of 3 month follow-up visits for reassessment.
Last month, during our final assessment, the doctor said to me, quite confidently,
“It’s not coming back.”
It’s not coming back.
Last month, I penned a letter to my friend; her friendship the one thing I wanted back,
“You may have wondered at times why we’ve struggled. I know I have. But, not a day goes by that I don’t think of you…”
This note was delivered, via a miracle, when I attended a special party in her honor. I was invited.
Last month, and on that very same day, I signed Owen up for soccer.