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20th of June 2018


The Second Time My Mother Called, I Answered. It Was About My Son. - The Good Men Project

—My mother called once. The first time, I ignored her. I was busy and didn’t have the time to answer. The second time, however, I picked up. My mother never calls twice unless it’s serious, and this time it was serious. The pictures, did I see the pictures? I had no idea what she was talking about. She was talking about my son. My ears clicked in, and I could hear my 5-year-old wailing in the background. Then, the pictures arrived. His testicles were swollen 2-3 times their normal size, reddish-purple and bruised. My heart fluttered all over my chest in the worst possible way. Yes, they could take him to the ER. Yes, now. Yes, get him there.

I would find this was the theme of the weekend: surrendering into the not knowing.

I was in San Francisco, and with the Friday traffic, it took almost two hours to get to where my parents live. I remember the music I put on, some sort of soothing new age mantras. Normally annoying, they brought my heart to slow steady beats. They smoothed the way to the ER where I would find my son. I went in and out of worry. Yes, he was at the hospital. Yes, my parents were with him. Yes, I was on my way. No, I didn’t want to get into any sort of accident, but damn, it was hard not knowing what was going on.

I would find this was the theme of the weekend: surrendering into the not knowing.

Photo by Author

I found my son propped up in a hospital bed, smiling. Normally effervescent, he was surprisingly still that way. He proudly displayed his testicles to anyone who would see, and many did. Over the course of the weekend, we would see pediatricians, urologists, radiologists, pediatricians specializing in infectious diseases, ER doctors, nurses, so many trained professionals. So much knowledge. But no one had an answer. No one had THE answer. It wasn’t testicular torsion. No hernia. Blood work was normal. I looked at all 48 pounds of my son, swimming in his hospital gown, charming the nurses with his smile. I listened to the urologist tell me it likely was not necrotizing fasciitis. (In the last situation, he told me at 11 pm, he didn’t think it was necrotizing fasciitis though we couldn’t rule it out either. That set off a flurry of zombie-like images in my mind.)

My husband was on retreat in remote Brazil. Supposedly reachable, he was entirely unreachable. I felt helpless. What could I do? Listen to doctors, lean on my parents and friends, be the rock for my son.

We left the ER with guesses, a large bill, and fewer symptoms.

Much like a tree anchors into the earth and can stop the land from eroding, the land, in turn, nourishes the tree.

The next day, the symptoms returned. This time it was a rash, achy legs, fever, and another ER visit. This time, we found out it was Henoch-Shoenlein Purpura: inflammation of the small blood vessels. It usually happens in kids aged 2-11 years, more in boys than girls. It usually resolves without intervention though the kidneys are monitored throughout the recovery period. It seems the rash usually precedes such things like swollen testicles, but in this case, my son did it his own way.

It was mysterious, this disease. Rare. Very little known about it. I learned we had to handle what we could, research like the geek I am, lean on people when I needed to, and enjoy my son’s grace with others.

In those moments, small glimpses into my son’s future appeared: his ability to deal with pain, mystery, and the sweetness of connecting with strangers in the midst of it all. I knew while I was trying to be a rock for my son, it was truly the both of us working together. Much like a tree anchors into the earth and can stop the land from eroding, the land, in turn, nourishes the tree. That was us. I was no rock: I was the soil and my son, the tree.


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