Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Worst

Of the many symptoms Chase has experienced from head trauma, loss of mobility has been the most frustrating for him and the most puzzling for physicians. Scans of his head, neck, spinal cord and hips all result in normal readings even when the presentation is anything but.

Our first visit to the neurologist happened the morning after Chase’s condition worsened. Because his gait was so compromised, a wheelchair was used to transfer him to the medical center. Biting my lip and struggling for composure in front of my son, I told myself that it would be just this once, as I straightened my shoulders and wheeled him through the automatic doors. Surely reliance on the chair would be just for a few days and Chase would soon be sprinting across the lacrosse field.

During the appointment, the kind neurologist examined our son, administering a battery of physical tests that Chase seemed to have difficulty completing. Touching his nose, following a light with his eyes, standing on his own, were just a few of the tests that proved impossible for him. How can this be? Just last week he was joyfully doing backflips on the trampoline and shooting foul shots in the driveway.

Next, the doctor sat Chase down at a computer to complete what is known as an Impact Test which is a computerized concussion evaluation system. The test would take twenty minutes and the physician asked that I leave the room with him. As we stepped into the hallway, the neurologist turned to me and said, “Chase is going to fail this test. There isn’t any possibility whatsoever that he is capable of answering any of the questions correctly.”

I looked at the doctor blankly, but I clearly remember thinking, “What are you talking about?! He is an A student! Not capable? But you just met him! And he was a verbal toddler, not to mention reading by the age of five. I knew I should have brought his report card….”

As I silently stared, the physician continued, “I talked to your husband yesterday but I did not expect that Chase’s condition would be as severe at is. This concussion is the worse I have ever seen.”

It is both a blessing and a curse to be the spouse of a physician. A blessing in that medical care and advice is readily available. It’s just a short cell phone call away, a brief discussion in Sunday School, a question answered in carpool line,or a consultation on the ball field.

It can also be a curse. Patients under your spouse’s care assume incorrectly that you know all of their medical maladies and want to update you with additional details. I have been standing in line at Kroger and been told about rotten gall bladders, pumped gas and listened to a description of reoccurring phlegm, and ordered coffee at Starbucks while hearing of the discomfort caused by constipation.

As the neurologist led me to a small waiting room, a comforting hand on my shoulder, I could only think of the blessings that had come in the form of physician friends during those first forty-eight hours of the injury. The many that called, those that stopped by and the ones that examined Chase’s condition from up close and from afar, I knew I would always be so very grateful.

Tears streaming from my eyes, I called my husband from that little waiting room and relayed the sentence that would follow me around unwelcomed for the next twenty-four days:

“This concussion is the worst the neurologist has ever seen.”


Anonymous said...

so happy and grateful and thankful the scans are normal. brains are weird, and humans are not patient. you are doing the best you can. keep on doing it. love from sc, mary

Kristie (Slaughter) McDevitt said...

Joni, I am praying for you and Chase, and the doctors - for this to disappear and astound all in the most miraculous way! And as we say in my family: We will give God all the glory!!!