Let’s talk about love! No, not Cupid’s arrows, fluffy bears, and chocolates. The kind that every parent is probably very aware of: tough love!
When Connor was about 4 months old, I took him to the emergency room because his eyes were shaking side to side. I called my mom, and she told me it sounded like he was having seizures. Naturally, I started to freak out a little bit. My baby!
I loaded him up in the car with a very bare diaper bag and I headed to the hospital. When I walked in and told the receptionist that I thought my infant was having seizures, she whisked him back in a flash. I followed her while trying to fill out the paperwork to the best of my ability. It’s amazing how quickly you can write and remember vital information when you see your child have 3 doctors surround him out of nowhere!
They started an IV and began asking me questions. Then they took him back for a CT scan and had me fill out even more paperwork. I remember standing in the waiting room and a doctor approaching me to ask if I was Petty Officer Hanrahan. I told him yes, and he said the results of the CT scan were back: Connor either was missing part of his brain or he had a massive amount of fluid that would need surgery to drain. Right as he told me that, another doctor came up and introduced himself as a neurologist and informed that me no fluid was on Connor’s brain; it was indeed a lack of brain matter they saw on the CT scan.
They admitted us to watch Connor more closely and run more tests. I remember being in a room full of people making lots of noise and not hearing a single word. I saw the doctors walk away, and as I followed them I felt like I was in a dream.
None of this is real. Did they really just tell me that my baby had brain damage? I didn’t know what to do, so I followed them like a zombie to the room where my son was. As soon as I saw him, I burst into tears. I felt so guilty and sad and anxious and overwhelmed, and helpless. I felt like I was probably the most helpless person on the planet. I was just told my son was missing a part of his brain. I didn’t believe it. I looked over at Connor and saw him smiling at me. What was going to happen to him? How would his life turn out?
The doctors asked me if I wanted to call someone. Sure I did, but who? My husband was out to sea floating who knows where, and I only had email to contact him. My parents were about half a country away, what could they do? Finally, I tried to call my mom and dad and told them what was happening. Oddly, I was quite calm about the whole thing. After I got off the phone, I sent my husband an email and sat down on the chair next to the bed and just stared at Connor.
The rest of the day is kind of a blur. I remember the next day the neurologist came in and talked to me about some of the results. They had no clue what caused his brain damage. It could have been from the car accident while I was pregnant with him, it could have been when he had a stroke at 2 weeks old in the NICU. They didn’t have a specific reason. They did tell me that he was definitely having seizures. And, there was good news that he didn’t have an infection and that this didn’t seem to be something that would get worse over time.
Immediately my brain jumped into information mode and started asking the doctor about physical therapy and how I could help my son be able to walk and crawl and sit up and play with his friends. I knew he would have some delays, but what could I do NOW to help him. What seizure medicine are we starting him on? What dosage? What are the side effects?
The Neurologist looked at me and told me, “Don’t bother with therapy: your son is likely to be a vegetable for his entire life.”
I didn’t say anything. I just looked back at the doctor. Surely he couldn’t be serious. Surely he didn’t believe that I shouldn’t try therapy for my son. So I said “okay” and left the conversation at that. I could hear my mom whisper into my ear “If you can’t say anything nice…” So we got discharged from the hospital with seizure medicine, and I got a note for work saying my son had been admitted.
As soon as I got home, I did my research and found out about Early Intervention and made an appointment for my son to be evaluated. Over the next few weeks, they came out and found that he did qualify for services. We soon started physical therapy to help him roll over and sit up. Our ultimate goal was walking, but I knew we had to work from the bottom up.