Monday, August 3, 2009

The little girl I'm running for

I didn’t have a full-fledged case of post partum depression when my oldest child, Jacob, was born, but I was a little bit loopy. It was probably the Percocet—or maybe it was the shock of needing an emergency c-section three weeks early—or the hormones. Or all three. Anyway, two things I remember specifically about my week of wacky mood swings:

1. I was convinced I could hear women in labor screaming in agony and was suspicious that they were being tortured in the room next to mine, even though the nurses assured me there was no way, from my hospital suite, I’d be able to hear L & D;

2. I was equally certain that when they took my tiny, helpless little infant out of my room, they were torturing him, too. Every time they brought him to me to nurse, he had new bandages on his tiny little feet. “Those perverts,” I thought to myself. “Hurting a tiny baby’s feet.”

When I noticed on my third day in the hospital that the bloody bandages were multiplying, I demanded to know where they were taking my son when he wasn’t in the bassinet beside my bed, and what they were doing to them. I was belligerent. So the nurse invited me to come along with her to the torture chamber—where before my very eyes she stabbed his skin with a metal lancet and then began squeezing blood out of his tender little heels and collecting it in a tiny tube.

To test it for jaundice.

Like many babies who have a different blood type than their mothers, Jacob had jaundice when he was born, and the daily “heel sticks” were to check on his bilirubin levels.

Even after they told me this—even after my husband, a physician, reassured me this was all above board—I remember howling in agony that I’d already failed at protecting him from pain. I still remember the sound of his screams.

I remember this, now of all times, now that he’s a healthy six year old boy without so much as a blister on his foot, because it makes me think of the little girl I’m running this half-marathon for. Leah Ahladeff, a former schoolmate of my daughter Rebecca, who is two years old and has leukemia. She’s already been through blood transfusions, chemotherapy, hair loss and bone aspirations—and, of course, cancer itself.

The idea that a child so small and vulnerable could go through all of this makes me recall how I felt that first week of Jacob’s life—like my heart had been ripped out. That I’d do just about anything to prevent such a small, delicate thing from suffering. That I’d rather have them kill me than witness such innocence suffering.

If I could become so distraught over simple blood tests, I can only imagine the hell Leah’s parents have been through. I’m so grateful for my children’s health thus far, but perhaps like many people involved in this cause, learning about how this illness strikes children makes me feel extremely vulnerable—it makes me aware that at any moment, our luck could change.

This thought, more than anything, gives me such motivation to “go the distance” for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Running makes me feel like I am “doing” something. And although my actual performance in the half marathon won’t have an impact on anyone’s health but my own, the fundraising will—and in that sense, I’m doing a lot.

With more time, money, resources and public support, maybe one day I’ll be able to rest assured my own children and grandchildren will never have to suffer what Leah and so many other leukemia patients have suffered. If the next generation has only to contend with heel sticks, what a victory that would be.

If you’d like to support my fundraising efforts for Leah and other blood cancer patients, will you help sponsor my participation in the Miami ING Half Marathon? Even a few dollars goes a long way. Click here to make a donation.

1 comment:

  1. What a powerful post!! You are doing an amazing thing! I am so proud of you :)