Sunday, April 8, 2007

my easter bunny

I had designs on my next post touting Thursday to be the new Saturday for those of us on the "growing up" fence. Instead I spent Friday licking Thursday night's wounds, considering that it might be time to bring myself back to earth. Easter Sunday morning found me in the ER realizing that the grounding had already begun, regardless of my conscious and hollow promise to tone it down.

For the sake of consistency, I wondered if this post should flow with the same satirical and self-effacing undertones as all posts up to this point. Given the subject matter and my general mood right now, there's no fucking way I can make light of this.

Friday night we noticed a few random red bumps on the back of Jack's neck and didn't make too much of it, given the fact that he's a boy and gets into everything under the sun. By late Saturday morning, we realized those bumps were just the scout team, for hundreds of the little welts had arrived and set up camp on his torso and legs. Naturally we called the pediatrician, who suggested that some kids exhibit hives on the back end of a viral infection, which Jack seemed to experience earlier in the week. We were instructed to keep an eye on it, as if I was not hawking him nonstop already, and to call her if the condition worsened. Saturday night, my wife went out and I stayed home with Jack. When he went to bed I watched a horror flick called High Tension. Under normal circumstances, a gore-infested thriller like this would make me lock the doors and blow on my sweaty palms until it finished, but that rash consumed my thoughts to the point where a rather creative decapitation hardly phased me.

This morning I clutched the doorknob and muttered a quick "please, God" before going in to retrieve him for the day. When I drew back the curtains and light poured in, I lost my breath. It was no longer a campsite but a complete enemy invasion. His face was one enormous red splotch, yet he obliviously smiled at me and delivered the sweetest "Hiiiiiiiii, Daddy!" This, of course, made me wince and smile at the same time. Thankfully he is too young to distinguish the variations in tone of voice because my reply of "Hey there, monster trucker" smacked of worry. Immediately I took him to our bed and woke up mommy, informing her that "we're so ER bound today, it's not even funny" before she even had a chance to know what day it was.

A quick call to the pediatrician to confirm my prediction, and we were on the road. By 8:30am Jack was rocking a tiny gown, watching Madagascar on a 13-inch television in an exam room. When the doctor rolled in, I immediately accepted the fact that I am old, since he looked to be about my age. Of course I paid him the highest level of respect with my questions and tone, but it was weird not feeling intimidated by him, as I have with all the older doctors up to that point in my life. In any case, he asked us to remove Jack's gown so he could have a look. It's hard to find words to do justice in conveying the contrast between the color of Jack's skin and the white sheet beneath him. As odd as this sounds, the pink and white, when perceived through the blur of tears in my eyes made me think of the Easter Bunny. After all, I guess those are common color combinations this time of year, so why not?

A couple of hours later, we learned that Jack has landed a case of erythema multiforme, some enigmatic rash of "bulls-eye-like red patches on the skin" caused by "an allergic reaction, an infection, a bite or sting, pregnancy, or other medical conditions." I pulled that from the medical report they gave us before we left. It sounds sort of like a fancy way of saying, your kid has this horrific rash that could be caused by anything and everything. On top of that, "it usually lasts about 1-3 weeks with gradual recovery..." Finally, it's a condition for which there is no treatment. In other words, we get front row seats to watch him deal with what looks like leprosy for a few weeks.

Some perspective: it could be much, much, much worse. I fully recognize this and have complete sympathy for those parents out there whose lives detour to the ER where they learn that their precious kid has some deadly disease.

I guess some of my sadness and worry stems from how close I felt to getting that kind of news. Much of it also comes from seeing Jack stroll around the house throwing paper airplanes and laughing while he wears this suit of sores. The juxtaposition of his pure joy and cheer against the sight of his condition breaks my heart. Later in the day I retreated to basement to "do laundry" so I could tend to the lump in my throat and unleash the tears. It felt good, and I suspect it's not the last time I'll do it.

Tomorrow we're headed to the pediatrician to continue this adventure. Right now he's out cold, wrapped up in his "banky," blissfully ignorant of the hand wringing his dad is doing.

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