I cannot bear my son Hayden leaving for college in 10 days and then again, I cannot wait for him to go. I was reminded of this when we went for his heart check up.
On Friday, Hayden was released from the pediatric cardiology unit at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Dr. Pass guaranteed the heart would last another 80 years. Hayden asked, “90?”
“I can’t guarantee 90.”
Being back in pediatric cardiology sent me in a tailspin, remembering the angst as I stood outside the ER, my son in surgery for his tachycardia, his rapid rate. He had gone under general anesthesia three times to fix this. The last time, June of 2009, Dr. Pass fixed it.
He is fine and we have almost forgotten how far we have come and how we lived through nights in intensive care.
I am proud of how we managed. I did not make too much of it or too little of it. I did not cover him in bubble wrap, hover over him like a hot house flower or put him on meds. (Well, actually he was on medication, a beta blocker, to prevent tachycardia, but only briefly as it seemed to make him groggy.)
Because he had this heart problem, my heart was connected to his. I watched over him, making sure if he did go into tachycardia, on the playground after school, that he would stand on his head and his heart rate would return to normal, often, he reported, with a somersault in his chest, not slowly back to normal, but with a thud.
On Friday, I told my boy/my 18-year-old man, “You were brave, never complained. You never asked, ‘Why me?’ You got through it. I am proud of you.”
And I got through it, too, with the buoyancy of my daughters to help. Because when you have one sick child, there is nothing like the life raft of two healthy daughters to carry you home.
Maybe in some ways, the girls were sidelined by his heart challenges and, yes, his charisma. This, more than anything, is why I am looking forward to my son going off to college. Because my Catherine and Charlotte deserve the limelight too. My 15-year-old daughters are separate and complete universes. They have been referred to as “the girlies” or “the twins.” They are their own people.
They are ready for their closeups. Their healthy hearts, too, are worth celebrating.
Be grateful for the healthy heart.