This is a post I wrote for Mike's Writing Workshop on December 22nd. I thought it might be worthwhile to post it on my blog as well.
Merry Christmas to all,
It's now 11:35 pm, and I just finished a 13 hour shift at the big box retail store where I am a manager. In any event, it's fair to say that the next two days will be equally "pleasant." We are heading into a major winter storm here in Lincoln, Nebraska, so I can look forward to 3/4 of my staff calling in due to road conditions, but without a doubt, nearly all of the shoppers will show up.
As much as I lament the retail woes of holidays, this Christmas is different. Two days before her second birthday on December 7th, my granddaughter Abigail started getting huge bruises all over her body. Her mother is my 19 year-old daughter. She and her husband--also a 19 year-old--knew something was wrong, and carted her off to the doctor, even though they were terrified that not only would no one believe something was wrong, but that someone might think these awful bruises had been inflicted by them, and yank their daughter away from them.
Fortunately for them, and for Abigail, she saw the doctor that delivered her. He immediately called for lab tests, that showed Abigail's platelets dangerously low. She could have had a brain bleed sitting still they were so low. The "big word" for what she has is Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura. In English; she had a virus, her body made antibodies to kill the virus. Her anitbodies have also decided that platelets are viruses, and are killing them too. You can't just transfuse platelets, her body would simply destroy them.
By the time I met them at the hospital, she was in bad shape. Bleeding from her nose, mouth, and in her urine. Nearly every inch of her little body was covered in big, ugly bruises. I swear, it looked like she'd been beat with a ball bat. The nurses needed to start IV's to transfuse blood products to help stop the response, and as a former RN, I can tell you that sticking fragile two year-olds is not easy. There was lab to be drawn, and this poor baby couldn't clot to stop the bleeding from any of the needle pokes.
After all of the poking was done, and neon bandages were wrapped around her little arms, Abigail looked at the nurses and lab techs, smiled through her tear-swollen eyes and said, "Thank you."
Yes, I cried.
So did the big, burly lab tech.
She responded quickly to the immune globulin infusion, and we had high hopes she'd be one of the lucky kids who have this uncommon problem, but get over it with a single course of treatment. However, her platelet count has steadily dwindled. Today, she hovers right on the bubble of needing additional transfusions. Her condition could become a lifelong problem--if she survives to long-life. It's all a game of "if's."
To say that this adds stress to an already stressful holiday season is an understatement. It does force me to put things into perspective. My languishing manuscript will be there waiting for me to finish the polishing edits. I am fairly certain the big box retail store will keep on saving people money so they can live better no matter what I do. I didn't send out a single Christmas card, and everybody is getting gift cards this year. The holiday dinner might come from Stauffers, I don't care--it might just as easily come from the hospital cafeteria.
When my daughter, still a child herself, needs her mother's comfort, I'll be there. I'll be there when Abigail wants Nana to tell her a story. I'll be there when my son-in-law needs a friend, or when any of my other four children, assorted in-laws, or grandchildren need me. That's the spirit of Christmas in a nutshell.
My wish for all of you is a holiday filled with the important things in life. And economy be damned, that has nothing to do with the presents under the tree. I thank you for giving me a forum to share what wisdom Abigail's illness has taught me. I'm not ready to say "thank you" to the big things in life that poke me and make me hurt, but with some grace, I pray someday I'll be as noble as Abigail.