Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Phew! (02/11/10)
TITLE: Christopher's Story
By Ruth Thoutenhoofd
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His mom breathed a private sigh of relief. He was her first baby and her pregnancy had been accompanied with a vague sense of foreboding. Something would be wrong with this baby. The thought haunted her but she hadn’t shared her fears. She had a reputation in her family for worry and overreaction and she had learned to keep some things to herself to avoid the glances that were shared when she expressed her fears. Anyway, those fears now seemed unfounded. Maybe she did have a touch of neurosis! She gazed at the perfect child in her arms and praised God for the miracle of his birth.
He was active and grouchy and bright and grew remarkably fast. Sometimes she would look at his eyes and see something that bothered her, but she was quickly shushed when she mentioned it. “He’s a normal, healthy little boy,” she was reassured.
At three months he rolled over right on schedule. It happened once or twice and then stopped. He couldn’t seem to get his head off the blanket after the second time and she worried. Around that time he began to wake up often at night like he had as a newborn and she speculated that he must be in a growth spurt, since he wanted to eat so often.
It was time for his inoculation, and even though the temperature on that prairie winter day was well below zero, she decided to get it done and over with. At the clinic she undressed him and waited for the nurse to check him over, weigh him, give him his “needle” and tell her again how healthy he was.
After examining him, the nurse asked how long it had been since the doctor had seen him. She felt his large soft spot and mentioned his “sunset eyes”, the whites showing over the pupils, giving him the strange look his mother had noticed but dismissed. When pressed, the nurse reluctantly mentioned a word that sounded familiar, but Christopher’s mom couldn’t place where she had heard it. Then, with a sick and sinking feeling in her gut, she remembered.
Her sister had worked in an institution for extremely disabled children and had described it taking two people to turn the ones with hydrocephalus over because their heads were so huge. The horror of that image had never really left her.
Back in the car, she didn’t bother to scrape more than a peephole to see through. Waves of despair and helplessness flooded her as she headed home, oblivious to the dangers around her, not caring. The nightmare had descended and it seemed to swallow her whole. “My God!” she breathed. It was a prayer, not an oath.
She took Christopher up to his crib, and for the first time since his birth, closed the door between them. Deformity appalled and repelled her. Closing the door was a kind of rejection, but she was helpless to stop herself. “I can’t do this!”
Later that day she buried her head in her mother’s lap like a little girl and sobbed, “My precious, precious baby!” Her heart was restored with those words. The mother lion had come back to life and action was required. Immediately. That night a visit was made to her in-laws’ family doctor, who said that some babies just had big heads. Finally trusting herself and the instincts God had given her, she refused to be silenced and headed straight to emergency.
A flurry of doctor’s visits, head measurings, and hospital stays followed. Life became a blur of families visiting and comforting, taking turns walking hospital corridors with the suffering little boy until finally surgery was performed - a shunt placed under the skin from the centre of the brain where the fluid was trapped to his abdomen, where it would drain.
His parents were waiting as he arrived back on the ward. His head, which had seemed permanently stuck to the blanket, was held high. His bright round eyes and huge smile told the whole story. Relief!
The doctors were delighted with the ease with which they had been able to correct his problem. “He should be perfectly fine.” Thirty three years later, the prediction still holds true.
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