A New Medical Issue Brings Back Painful Memories

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by Joe MacDonald |

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Last week, I took Caeleb, my youngest son, to the University of New Mexico Health’s urgent care center, which is on the same floor as the Ted R. Montoya Hemophilia Program and Treatment Center. He’d been experiencing stomach and head pain for five days. I figured he had a virus and would soon find relief from his symptoms.

As we made our way down the hall, I felt a rush of anxiety come over me. I have many memories of walking down that same corridor when Caeleb was younger. The stress I carried back then gripped me once again.

As I walked, a million thoughts drifted through my mind. “What if he has bleeding in his stomach? Why didn’t I bring my son in sooner?” I felt the same old self-doubt and dread of what could happen with each step. A sense of guilt flooded over me as I thought about the damage that a severe bleed could inflict on my boy.

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I still carry that trauma with me, even though Caeleb’s last bleed occurred eight years ago. Anxiety reared its ugly head, and I felt helpless to assist my son. I recalled memories of my boy’s bleeding disorder complications and believed the chaos would never stop. Worst-case scenarios played over and over in my mind. But I never let my son know about the horrible thoughts racing through my brain as we continued down the hall.

Once at the reception desk, we quickly filled out the necessary information, and a nurse escorted us back to an examination room to wait for a doctor. Caeleb lay down on the bed, and I sat with my iPad, hoping to get some work done. My son had earbuds to listen to music, content with his favorite jazz tunes. (Yes, I have a 16-year-old son who loves the music of Benny Goodman and the rest of the jazz legends.)

The room was eerily quiet as I tried unsuccessfully to focus on my sermon for Sunday. I could not concentrate on the task at hand. I wanted to stand up and shout, “I can’t breathe in this room. Get me out of here!”

Instead, I kept my mouth closed and focused on my breath as I tried to calm down. I find that mindfulness techniques help me reclaim a sense of control.

I laughed to myself as I remembered a phrase I often tell people: “My mind is a dangerous neighborhood, so I do not go into it by myself.” I closed my eyes and continued to concentrate on my breath instead of my painful memories. I realized that the panic I felt was a relic from a time that must remain in the rearview mirror. I must remember that the worries of yesterday do not define the problems of today.

The doctor came and examined my son. She also checked for COVID-19 and signs of an internal bleed in his stomach. Both tests came back negative. The medical team determined that my boy had a stomach virus, as I suspected from the beginning. The doctor told us to go home and let the virus run its course.

As we left the room, I looked back and recalled memories of a remarkable young boy and his concerned parents. It was easy to see that his pain had reached an unbearable level, and through the screams and tears, I saw his right knee swelling significantly. I saw the stress in all the eyes in that room and hoped the nightmare would end quickly.

As quickly as the image had surfaced, I realized that it was time to exit the room, so I left my younger self to tend to the problems of the past. My focus returned to the teenager my son is today. I look into his green eyes and feel like the luckiest parent in the world.

As we walked through the halls and back to the car, I felt blessed beyond measure. My son and I conquered another medical adventure.


Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.

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