I knew they weren't exaggerating. Even as they explained the trouble he was getting into at school, his head was dangling upside down from the exam table. I slid my stool over, pushed my hand through his sleek hair and stopped his downward progress toward a certain fall. Uninterrupted, his parents continued their litany while he threw me a toothy smile.
Today, I remember the feel of his silky hair and think of another boy. Eddie (not his real name) was my patient in the ICU. I was so scared, terrified really, for him that I was willing to stand up to his surgeon. I twirled from his bedside when the man finally arrived. Like missiles, I hurled out my concerns... the difficulty managing his blood pressures, the critical labs that worsened daily...the very real possibility that he could die if he didn't return to the OR.
The surgeon remained impassive after my fervent pleas. Crossed his arms over his chest and finally spoke.
"If I take him back, he will never be able to feel again".
Eddie had meningococcemia. I read a brochure once that described it as "a very serious infection". That is an understatement. Initially, Eddie had flu symptoms. Then he had a pink rash...that turned into bruises all over his body. Within hours, the blood supply to his extremities was lost and the infection was wrecking havoc on his little 3 year old body. To save his life, the surgeon removed his two legs at the knees, his left arm at the elbow. He took off half of his right hand. This was the hand I wanted removed, where the infection still lingered and shot out toxins that threatened Eddie's life.
I had no rebuttal. I watched the man pivot and walk away.
For two more days, I felt like I held Eddie's half-hand as he dangled over a large crevasse. I prayed, murmured to him and anxiously watched his monitors. Until finally, slowly, his color improved and his vitals stabilized. And Eddie was left with the ability to feel.
What are you grateful for? I'm thankful for the vaccine that prevents this illness, the surgeon that refused to go to the operating room...my ability to touch...to feel.