The care and nurturing of these tiny beings from infanthood to adulthood is a sticky process fraught with peril. One wrong move (so the adage goes) and our offspring will spend several decades and thousands of dollars propped up in some shrink's office telling him or her how all their woes are mom or dad's fault.
I'm not sure I actually buy in to that. I think every child is different. I know some adults who went through some pretty heavy shit growing up who are just fine (more or less) today. I also know a few who had more or less idyllic childhoods and are totally dysfunctional. So you never know.
But the part I am beating myself up the most about these days is in my role of protector.
They are still so young. And with youth comes a respectable level of fearlessness. I remember it myself. Jumping out of trees, riding bikes top-speed down steep hills (without a helmet, mind you), walking on a frozen pond with no thought whatsoever as to whether the ice was safe or not.
I like to think I do my best to protect them, knowing that they are not always going to do this themselves.
Protection extends beyond the extreme, of course. It's not just about jumping out of trees and steering clear of thin ice. It's also about the basics: Wash your hands before you eat. Don't tip back in your chair at the dinner table. After playing outside, let us check you for ticks.
We live in a rural area. Our yard is surrounded on two sides by woods. We have deer – lots of them – leaping through those woods, along with a host of other wildlife. I know probably a half dozen people here in town who have had Lyme disease, and probably a dozen more from the surrounding area.
When we moved here, we attended a seminar held at the local high school about Lyme disease. Finding the tick early is key, I learned. They need to be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit the disease, so one of the best ways to prevent it is to do regular and thorough checks after being outside.
I know the risks.
And yet, sometime in early June, after a day of playing outside, I stripped off Loaf's clothing, pulled a nightgown over her head and sent her to bed. The next day, I handed clean clothes to her and she dressed herself.
Later than night while preparing her for a bath, I noticed something on her back. A tiny black something. Not much bigger than a freckle. Unsure if it was dirt or lint, I gently brushed it with my finger tip, but it did not budge.
I looked closer.
Six tiny legs wiggled from the engorged body of a tick. A deer tick. A fully embedded one. The head was all the way in her back, meaning it had probably been there a while.
We gently removed it and I plopped it into a plastic bag telling myself it was wise to save it incase it needed to be tested later. (But it won't, right? A relatively small percentage of ticks carry Lyme, so the chances of this ONE being a carrier is small, right?)
A couple of days later we had dinner with our neighbors and he told the story of a recent tick buried in his side that he had tested and that came back positive for Lyme. I told him Loaf's story and he encouraged me to send it off to the lab for testing, just for peace of mind.
Twenty bucks and a few days later, we got the result: THIS TICK IS A POSITIVE CARRIER OF LYME DISEASE. CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN.
So we did, of course, but like many things, we were in a waiting game to see if she developed the rash, or other symptoms. And she was fine. Each day passed without any suspicious symptoms whatsoever.
Until this week when she woke up one morning complaining of leg pain. An examination and blood test confirmed it: Lyme disease.
The good news is, though she will be on antibiotics for most of August, she is expected to be 100%, totally fine. Her prognosis is good.
But my Monday-morning quarterbacking is still in diagnosis mode. And it says: Why didn’t you check her that night? How did you LET this happen?
And I suppose that’s a good thing. This way, hopefully, it won’t happen again.
Labels: Fear and loathing