Saturday, July 21, 2007

:: Evan Swollenhands ::

I have a long history of unexplained illnesses and odd afflictions. When I was nine, I started having headaches every single day with no other symptoms. They hurt so much that I would put the thermometer to the lamp to fake fevers so I didn’t have to go to school. Doctors who didn’t know me thought I was also faking the headaches, but my wonderful pediatrician believed me. He knew how much I L-O-V-E-D school and how well I did (in fourth grade I got an A+++ on a paper I wrote on voles, rodents not to be confused with moles). Eventually, we discovered that my sinuses were, well, FUBAR, and I ended up having surgery. I was written up in a medical journal because no kid had ever had the surgery before. I remember going to the hospital tour and all us kids being asked what kind of surgery we were having. A chorus of “tonsillectomy” and “tonsils and adenoids” roared up and I, just a wee thing, recited my surgeries: “bilateral endoscopic sphenoidectomy.” My mom and I had practiced and I felt both proud and very alone as I spit out those big words. I was also the only kid whose surgery required an overnight stay. All the other kids would be some other big word: ambulatory. Lucky kids.

In college I saw another round of doubting doctors. This time, it was for difficulty breathing. I had an allergic reaction to a drug I was taking, I thought, which is not uncommon for me. I’ve got other drug allergies. But the shortness of breath didn’t subside after I stopped taking the drug. In fact, it persisted for months. I saw my doc, who referred me to both lung and heart specialists. I had cardiac stress tests, which required me to run on a treadmill tilted almost vertical. I had ECGs and EKGs. I had this one lung test where I had to either breathe in or be injected with some radioactive isotope (I have put this one out of my mind a little) so they could see how it moved through my body. I was never diagnosed, but after about six months, I was feeling better. In the end, it was either pleurisy (swelling of the sac around the lungs, I guess) or anxiety. I’ll never know, but it’s never come back.

Throughout the years, I’ve also had sun allergies producing unexplained rashes that look like scratches all over my back and other sundry afflictions. This is how I know Evan’s really my son, because at 25 days old, he already had developed his own strange condition.

On Thursday night, I noticed that Evan’s hands were getting chubbier. But it seemed awfully sudden to just be fatter. As the night wore on, the hands got fatter and I started to suspect that they were actually swollen. We had a nurse coming to the house the next morning (the hospital I delivered at, Mt. Carmel St. Ann’s, has a home-visit program for first time moms and babies, free of charge, that we decided to take advantage of, if only to have Evan weighed again), so we didn’t call the doc. By morning, when the nurse arrived, his feet were also swollen. She had no explanation but suggested we call the doctor. Within an hour, thanks to a cancellation, we were at the pediatrician’s office with Evan Swollenhands (this was what my sister called him on the phone, funny girl). Two different doctors looked at him, gave him thorough workups, and came to the same non-conclusion: “We don’t really know what’s wrong. But we don’t think it’s a problem.” Evan was exhibiting no other symptoms, his heart and lungs sounded great, his mood and eating were fine. So we were sent home with instructions to look for further developments and call if needed.

In the afternoon, we thought his knees also looked swollen, but Evan still wasn’t exhibiting any of the symptoms the doctors told us to look for: irritability, decreased urine production, crying inconsolably for more than two hours at a stretch, refusing to eat, vomiting green. He was still our perfectly fine little baby, just a bit puffier. It was a little flash-forward to when he has put on a few more pounds.

But I have to admit, the knees were enough to put me right at that edge: that place where you are worrying enough that you feel weird. Like maybe you feel not hungry or something. A little off. I have weathered these first nearly-four weeks with little worry – even in the car I let Evan sit there in the back while I sit with Brian in the front. I can’t always hear him breathing, but I trust that he is. But with the swollen hands and feet and then the knees, and with it being Friday night, I had this awful feeling in my stomach: I feared urgent care, a night at the hospital. I feared that Evan would suddenly make a serious turn for the worse. And so I carried him. I carried him all curled up in the fetal position, snugly against my upper abdomen and chest, from the store we were at with Brian’s parents (visiting us this weekend) to the car. He was so content and quiet that my worry just slipped out without my notice. I just knew that he was fine.

By his 4:30 a.m. feed, his feet were back to their normal size. By 6:30 this morning when he woke up early, his hands were also normal. The red knees I am now chalking up to being rubbed against the sides of his car seat the entire time he was in the stroller yesterday.

We’ll probably never know what caused it. That’s my baby for you.


Christina July 22, 2007 at 5:46 AM  

I'm glad it went away on its own.

Probably best you didn't go to the hospital, anyway. You wouldn't like all the tests they are required to run on infants under 2 months. I'm still upset about our trip to the emergency room.