(Dalton, tugging at his ear, days before he was hospitalized)
Dalton tells me that his friend Jonah had a seizure.
"Really?" I ask, worried.
"Yeah, he had it in the car. He told us about it at scouts. His dad was freaked out. His brother has them too."
"Gosh, that is too bad." I say.
"Yeah, he said that his eyes twitches when it happens. (pause) And Jack hit my eye at football yesterday and it's been hurting."
"Well, a seizure doesn't happen when your eye hurts. It happens when your brain is hurt."
"Oh." He looks disappointed. And that's when I realize that he was hoping for some medical injury that he could brag about to his friends. I am sure that Jonah's stories drew a lot of ooohs and ahhhs, and what kid doesn't want that? I think that me and all my friends were hypoglycemics until we found out that it doesn't just mean that you can be excused from class at anytime to get an "emergency candy bar". As sad as it is, I remember being jealous of a girl in High School, because of the attention that her eating disorder got her. Luckily I was not jealous enough to want to copy her. But, for whatever reason, having some interesting medical issues as a kid in school, does make you stand out from the crowd...makes you special. And that is when I made Dalton's day. "Dalton, your eye is not hurt, and you do not have seizures. You are healthy and we don't want to pretend to be sick. That's not good. Besides, you were VERY sick as a child. When you were Garrett's age, you almost died. You were in the hospital and you had to have surgeries. Don't you remember? You just had to have another surgery in the fall because of it."
"Oh yeah (a smile spreads over his face) my ear."
"Yes, your ear."
And then Shelby's little ears perk up, "What happened to Dalton when he was Garrett's age?" And so we get out the scrapbooks (yes, I was weird enough to scrapbook it all) and I retell the story, bit by bit, careful not to leave out any gory details. I tell how Dalton had been sick for many days, with a high fever. How he would cry all the time, all through the night. How he was only happy when he was on Tylenol, but as soon as it would wear off he would be in horrible pain again. How I took him to the Doctor every day, and they told me over and over that there was no problem, and it was just a virus that would go away eventually. How one day, after a horrible night, we were on our way to his Doctor's office again, when I looked in the mirror and saw that his face and his head were swelling up. It was so bad that it forced his ear down and his eye shut. How I rushed him inside where they took one look at him and told me to take him to Boston Children's Hospital. How they diagnosed him with Mastoiditis, which means that he had a rare and deadly infection that had spread back behind his ear, in to his head. We have Dalton pull back his hair, and I show Shelby the scar behind his ear, where they had to do emergency surgery to dig out the infection from the Mastoid bone. I tell about how they had to stick a needle in to his spine to test to see if the infection spread in to his brain, and how we were all so happy that it hadn't. I told him about how he was learning to walk, so he would break the IVs that were going in to his foot, as he walked all over the place. How I couldn't lay him down to change his diaper for a year after the surgery because he was terrified of being strapped down to have IV's (needles) inserted in his arms. We talked about how after the surgery he was still sick, so he had to have another operation to make sure that the infection was out of his body. We talk about how his dad crawled in to his hospital crib with him so that he would feel safe and stop crying. How Grandma Paula and Papa Dan flew out from Nevada to be at Dalton's bedside. How he had many friends, who were worried about him, come visit him in the hospital. There were many prayers offered for him. And how Mom and Dad were so worried that he was going to die. We talk about how he had to stay in the hospital for two weeks, and how the doctor's couldn't figure out why his fever wouldn't go down. And how, when he came home, he had a "pic line" that went in to his body and how mom had to put medicine in the tube every four hours, even in the middle of the night. We talk about how lucky he is to be alive, and not be deaf or have any other problems.
"I'm so glad I didn't die."
"Me too. I would have wanted to die, if you would have died."
At this statement he smiles. Then he continues to look at all the hospital pictures of his little cherubic self, with tubes coming out of his body, and bandages covering his head.
"This is my favorite book." He says, "Because it's all about me."
And there he has it: His war story and his scar that he can now go share with all his friends, and out-do the kid with the seizures. Who would have thought that that gut-wrenching, horrible experience would have been good for anything. I guess I can stop sticking the Voodoo-doll I made of his old Pediatrician with pins. She may have dropped the ball on his health, but she gave him his war story.