The Nurse Cried

I don’t know if she actually did; I couldn’t see. But Pdad thought so. After she got Kate’s IV in, I did hear her say several times, “That’s why I’m an adult nurse!” I think she actually did a great job. The IV went in on the first try. We all held our breath–last week Kate had to be pricked a third time after a vein collapsed, so we didn’t want to tell her that it was over and she was done, until it was over and she was done. But the vein performed and the test continued.

The nurse was under pressure. Kate is young (not yet three) and little. We had mentioned last week’s three tries with the IV. It seemed like a whole room of people was looking on. I couldn’t have put a needle into Kate, but the nurse’s tenderness still surprised me. None of us want to hurt a defenseless little person who has to trust us.

At an earlier point yesterday, the lights were off, the high tech monitor was on, and the specialist studied it. I lay next to Clara in the bed, trying to give comfort with my presence and my touch, wishing I could see, but knowing that I wouldn’t be able to understand anything I saw. Pdad and the two technicians watched the specialist. I could see her face as she studied the monitor. I wondered if she would be able to see what she needed to. I wondered whether she would be distracted by all of us watching her. I wondered if she would have to order further, more traumatic tests to be able to see better. I wondered if Kate would have to be sedated again today, whether it was truly safe, and whether we were making the right choices for her. As the specialist silently scanned the screen, I wondered whether she had the ability and the experience to make the right call. I had never met her before that morning; she seemed both competent and compassionate, but I didn’t yet know if she deserved my trust.

The day before, our pediatrician had called me from home on his day off to recommend these tests. I was baffled. Our medical odyssey began with the intermittent tremor we noticed in Kate’s hands and arms. Last week the focus was her brain. Thankfully, the MRI didn’t reveal any obvious bleeds or tumors. So why were we now looking at an echocardiogram of her heart? The pediatrician had a difficult task. He wanted to reduce my anxiety by explaining that there was no cause for concern and that the tests likely wouldn’t reveal anything that wasn’t normal. At the same time, he wanted to communicate urgency for performing the tests. The contradiction gave me anxiety.

A too-brief midday conversation with Pdad confirmed our shared mental status. The pediatrician wants more tests. Are we certain that seeking more medical intervention and study is the best course for our daughter? No. Are we certain that it isn’t? No. Do we trust that our pediatrician knows the best way to proceed? No. Do we trust that he cares about her and wants what is best for her? Yes. Do we trust him and go forward? . . . ?

It is curious to me how our situation as parents in the hands of the medical system mirrors Kate’s. To a degree, we are helpless. We can only trust or not trust. Our situation is different than Kate’s though, in that we know a little more, and we have the aching burden of decision by proxy. Perhaps that nurse could shed a few tears for us too. Perhaps she already did.

P.S., Kate’s heart looks great! It is normal and healthy. There are no holes. She was very brave in getting her IV and was miraculously cooperative and even sleepy through all the procedures which allowed her to avoid sedation. We appreciate your prayers. We are very thankful for good test results so far. The plan now is to simply wait for our appointment with a pediatric neurologist near the end of January. The good test results have done nothing to explain her tremor, so the mystery and a reasonable dose of anxiety continues.