Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blank slate baby

It occurred to me today that when most people in the world have a new child, that child is a blank slate. An empty canvas. A new little person to explore who is - at least for a moment - perfect. As they age and start to experience new things, that is when you learn that they need glasses or have allergies to cats or a learning disability or a mental illness.

From day one - at 29 weeks and 2 days gestation - Will and Luke never were those blank slate babies. Not that I mourn that time anymore, but I acknowledge that their birth was early and traumatic, and from very early on, we were afraid for them. First for their prematurity, then for their bleeding, then for their breathing, then for their brains, then for their surgeries.

I've never really stopped and thought about how much trauma and drama we took on during those first couple of months, and how quickly things that were pretty scary became commonplace for us. Yep, our kids had VP shunts and were followed by neurosurgeons from the time they were less than 5 lbs a piece. Doesn't everyone? Every three years, I fight for Will to get a new wheelchair... you too, right?

When you deal with those kinds of serious things each day, you become indifferent and unimpressed by more of the regular, blank slate types of pediatric issues. I don't mean to sound heartless, but acid reflux? Zantac. Sinus infection? Penicillin. Broken bone and an x-ray? Give 'em a cast and see you in 6 weeks. Bee sting? Hmm... not something I thought or worried about before today.

I got a call from Luke's day care that he had been stung by a bee on the ear right before his bus came to pick him up to go to pre-K. The ear was red and getting a little puffy. What did I want them to do? Was Luke allergic to bee stings?

I can handle shunt malfunctions. I know how to work a Kangaroo feeding pump and a nebulizer in the dark with my eyes closed. I can replace a g-tube button and know what to do in the event of a seizure. But a bee sting... never really thought about it. Never had to.

At first, I wanted to pretend like it wasn't a big deal. Luke was acting fine at day care and the ear seemed to be bothering the teachers more than it was bothering him. After 15 minutes of close observation, we decided that it was unlikely that he was going to go into anaphylaxis. Away to pre-K he went. But as Luke was on the bus and I couldn't get an update on him, I started to get worried. What if he went into anaphylactic shock? Got hives? Couldn't breathe? Is it really possible that even with everything we have dealt with up until now, there could STILL be things to worry about?

Of course there are. Will and Luke are actually still blank slates when it comes to most of these things. They will still develop the same medical conditions that any other child might - full term or not. Seems unfair sometimes. I'd like to believe that they got all their "crappy medical conditions" chits back at the time of their birth. But I know... no such luck.

But by the time Luke got to pre-K, the ear was swollen further. It got redder and hot. His teacher called me, frantic. What should she do? Was Luke allergic to bee stings? She had never seen this bad of a reaction to a bee sting before.


I did what every parent I know would do... I Googled 'bee stings.' I had them put ice on the ear to reduce the swelling. I had them look for hives and for a stinger to remove. He had none, and his teacher got him to laugh and hold the ice to his ear by putting it in a sock. Go figure.

He was fine. He is clearly not allergic to bee stings. Collective NCSlaviks community sigh of relief...

The pediatrician told me that because the sting was on the ear, there was no easy place for the inflammation to go. The body's natural response to a bee sting it to swell up. The ear would likely swell up to the point where we thought it might be dangerous, but it was going to be fine. Ice and Benadryl were really the only things that might help, if he continued to be uncomfortable.

By the time Luke got home today, the ear was noticeable but didn't look too bad. Luke was happy to tell me that the "bee got him on the ear" and laughed about the ice in a sock.

Luke got stung on his right ear. From the front, it doesn't look that out of the ordinary. Don't mind the lick marks around his mouth... not sure how to stop him from doing that... blank slate moment.

When comparing the left to right ears, you can see that the right one looks more red. Doesn't really seem like too much though.

But the true measure of the day is in the photo from the back. You can see that Luke's poor right ear is swollen out about an inch from the side of his head. Thankfully it isn't bothering him at all... but it does still look painful! The pediatrician said that it will look bad for a day or two, but we should see a marked improvement by Saturday. Phew!

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