As a child there are many types of injuries that cause various degrees of pain, some of which parents can help take care of with a kiss, a band-aid or squeeze of the hand. Giving with a full heart is the best gift you can ever give and sometimes can make even the boogey man go away.
There is the skinned knee. The loose tooth. The scraped elbow. The bee sting, The black eye. The sprained ankle. The broken arm. The paper cut. The fat lip. The stubbed toe. The burnt tongue. The bloody nose.
Then there are the more serious pains like chicken pox, a fever, strep throat, constipation, rashes and the flu.
When a child becomes more seriously ill parents are often thrown a curve ball. Looking back I remember trying to use any of the first type of ailments to get out of going to school. I failed miserably and my mom was on to me. I even tried to fool her on the more serious ones, I used the thermometer under the lamp trick (no one really gets 110 fever though), made my voice sound scratchy to indicate a sore throat, pinched my cheeks to look flushed. Nothing worked. She had pretty good instincts and I was not too good in the lying department.
There was one night in particular where my stomach truly did bother me and no matter how I placed my body in bed I was so uncomfortable. I was hot from all the tossing and turning, of course it was the middle of the night and when I went to complain to my mother she shooed me away and said it was probably gas and I should try going to the bathroom. So I did. I must have sat on that toilet for just a minute when I was overcome with an intense dizzying hot flash. I threw my 10 and 1/2 yr. old body onto the cool linoleum to cool my cheeks down. I must have fallen asleep there because this is where my mother found me the next morning. That certainly impressed her enough to take me to the doctor. I was pumped – no school, YES!
Of course on the way to the doctor I felt no stomach pain. I started getting nervous. Every detail of these moments is still so vivid in my mind. The stairs up to the office were the kind with the empty see-through slots between. I always feel like I am going to fall walking up these. Even still today I hate them. We got to the 2nd floor office, sat in the waiting room, waited for maybe 10 minutes. 10 minutes well spent though, my pediatrician always had copies of Highlights magazine – LOVED the hidden picture page, searching for the frying pan and a golf tee with the smell of the wood paneling is a really strong memory. Finally I get called to the inner sanctum, where we were asked to wait. Feeling no pain as I was perched on the table with the crunchy white paper beneath me, my mom sat quietly on the side in a small wood bench tucked in a cute niche, looking at the poster of the body and arrows pointing at the way the blood flows through the system, I had a terrible thought. What if there is nothing really wrong with me? Nervous that I was going to be caught and get a lecture, be forced to go to school I had an idea. I’ll use humor, (side-note, I wasn’t a funny kid). “Hey mom, wouldn’t it be funny if the doctor said I needed to go to the hospital”? She didn’t have a chance to answer because in walked Dr. Berofsky. After a few moments of poking and prodding he suggested we…GO TO THE HOSPITAL…I was shocked and really upset and nervous. I looked at my mother, “I was totally kidding, really I’m fine, I can go to school, I mean it”. At first I thought, they called me on it, they win.
Off we were, the next bit is fuzzy. I don’t remember the beginning but I really remember being in the ICU, tubed up post surgery and quite miserable. No friends came to visit and obviously there were no piano lessons. Complete kidney failure which meant whenever I was forced to walk to the playroom I had to drag a urostomy bag with me on my IV pole. Of course, most other kids were not in the mood to ‘play’ either, even today I think maybe these contributions are more for the visitors that for the patients. I was going to be in for a while, through sukkot and needed to go to dialysis. Physically this was the worst pain I ever experienced as a child. I was acutely aware that I was far better off than some of the other children in the ICU. I had loads of time to think in my isolated corner. I watched MTV – A total eclipse of the heart was my favorite song and I remember when I could finally eat something solid I asked for a tall glass of cold milk. (a strange request since milk was for dipping cookies into and making my Wheaties soggy) not for drinking. I remembered learning about the tefillah Asher Yatzar in my fifth grade class with Mrs. Landesman, laughing at the idea that there was a prayer to make even after going to the bathroom, and annoyed that we were forced to memorize it . Of course, after my trips to dialysis, I thought, maybe it’s not so funny.
After a few weeks, there was some progress and I was placed in a regular room. It was then that I started making new, albeit temporary, friends and when it was lights out, we were quick to get mischevious. There were wheel chair races and nurses chasing us, I even learned to pop a wheelie! There were secret visits and ghost stories and funny faces behind the nurses backs. Kids will be kids. For those of us on the mend, we made it a happy place. The strength of the spirit is way stronger than sometimes the fitness of a body. I don’t remember any of their names, I got lots of loot from balloons to stuffed animals and funny cards. I had blood-work taken daily by what I can only imagine as Tammy Fay Baker’s long lost twin.
I do not remember the ride home, or the first day back at school. I remember eating a no salt diet and thinking my arms looked like pin cushions and asking if they would ever heal. My parents were vigilant though and I was kept on my special diet, went for regular check-ups and never once since then had any kidney problems, B”H. I never forget to say Asher Yatzar. I never forget that Hashem listens to us. This is not the first time I have said, “Whoa, I better watch what I say”.
Now, when my own children come to me with fake ailments, I am quick to poo poo them but every now and again I give in. I hope I’ll be able to recognize the difference but hope I never get the opportunity to know that kind of pain. I am a good listener and good with helping people figure things out. So, if anyone ever needs to add a little something to their resume, I’d be happy to show you how pop a wheel chair wheelie.