Monday, April 02, 2007

A Parent's Nightmare

Diane and I took Kyra to a pediatric cardiologist this morning because she's been complaining on and off for the past few months of how her "heart hurts". We've come to understand this as anything from her heart racing and pounding in her chest to physical pain. At first, the "heart burn" was random and sporadic. Kyra, being the sensitive soul that she is, would experience it at school when one of her classmates got in trouble or if she got scared. But recently it's become much more common. She would complain that her "heart hurt" before going to bed or during/after physical activity. Diane finally took her to see her pediatrician hoping to get some answers to what we also hoped was nothing. She instead referred us to the cardiologist.

Last Friday, while Kyra and I were playing a rousing game of Roll Ball (because throwing a ball is not allowed in the house), she announced that her heart was burning. I crawled up to her from my Roll Ball position at the end of the hall and placed my ear to her chest. I could feel her heart pounding against the side of my head. I called a Roll Ball timeout, got up, and picked up the phone where I made an appointment with the cardiologist. The earliest they could see her was this morning.

I hate situations like this because at this point, everything's an unknown. And the mind doesn't like the unknown. The mind hates the unknown and can't leave it alone. Like a kid with a crusty scab, the mind picks, and picks, and picks at the unknown, filling in the gaps, usually with the worst scenario possible. In his book, Cell, which I recently finished (HA!), Steven King calls it a "panic rat". The panic rat likes to escape its cage and run rampant, knawing on the nerves of the unknown. The trick is to keep the panic rat caged, which I had been doing a pretty good job of. I kept telling myself not to worry until there was something definite to worry about, until this morning, that is, because last night, I had a dream.

I rarely remember my dreams anymore, so I consider it significant if I'm able to recall a dream when I'm awake. In my dream I was at a performance, a musical or a concert, and Kyra was playing a significant role. The performance wasn't taking place in a theater or a music hall, though. It was being held in what looked like a wide hotel hallway. The carpeting had a rose-colored floral design and I could see several doorways on the opposite side of the hall. I was aware of only one other person in the "audience" besides myself, and that person remained faceless to my left. On "stage" were two people I didn't recognize, a man and a woman, and Kyra. Another person, I can't remember if they were male or female, was just off stage in the shadows.

The man and woman were singing a song downstage (which was actually in the middle of the hallway) while Kyra stood upstage next to the wall. At regular intervals during the song, Kyra would walk downstage and sing a couple of lines to the song, then return to her position next to the wall. It was obvious, to me at least, that it became increasingly difficult for her to keep doing this, that something was bothering her, making it too emotional for her to go on. After about the third time she contributed to the song, she returned to her upstage position where the person in the shadows, whom I decided was the director, emerged to talk to her. The director whispered into Kyra's ear while rubbing her back or giving her a small hug. Kyra would then continue to walk downstage to sing her part, then return to the director. I don't remember what music she was singing, but it clearly was affecting her. Huge wet tears began rolling down her face as she sang, and I soon realized that I was crying too because I didn't know what was wrong with her and I couldn't go to her to comfort her in the same way as the director.

That's all I remember of my dream. What's weird is that I didn't remember it immediately upon waking. I was getting ready for the appointment, shaving actually, when the memory of my dream hit me like a ton of bricks. That's when the panic rat escaped for a little while and I struggled to maintain my composure. I just kept telling myself that we didn't know anything and that it was useless to worry and panic. Thank goodness it was only an hour before the appointment.

We arrived at the doctor's office and filled out the eight million forms and questionaires. Kyra was scared, because to her, doctor's office = SHOT. Diane held her and assured her that there would be no shots; that the doctor would just listen to her heart. At one point during the visit, Kyra, being a very sharp six year-old, asked Diane a question. "Mommy?" she asked. "Did you ever have heart problems when you were a kid?"

"No, Sweetie. I didn't."

"Then how do you know I won't get a shot?"

Diane shot me a look, and I shot her a grin that said, "You're screwed! Have fun answering that one!"

The nurse came in and took Kyra's blood pressure at both her arm and leg, and also conducted an EKG. Kyra was incredibly brave during the EKG, and actually enjoyed having the stickers deposited all over her chest and stomach. "This is just like Grammy," she told the nurse, who completed her duties and then exited the exam room. The cardiologist arrived about twenty minutes later (why do they always take so frickin' long?) and began his examination.

The good news is that the EKG was normal and that Kyra's heart sounds great. The bad news, if it can be classified as such, is that he's not sure of what's causing her heart pain. His gut feeling is that it's acid reflux; that her "heart burn" is heartburn. And he suggested that some kids are just a little more nervous than others, which would explain the racing heart. Still, he suggested that we keep a log of Kyra's "heart burn" that includes time of day, what she was doing, and whether pain preceded or followed the racing heart. If it gets worse, we head back to see him with log in hand.

So on the one hand we're relieved: initial tests proved to be normal. But there's still the question of what's happening inside her little heart. There are still not enough definitives and too many unknowns. I hope that it's just heartburn, that she's just a nervous kid (which raises other issues), but we don't know for sure. There's still the possibility that there's something else going on in there, and the panic rat is always poised and ready to run amuck in the back of my mind.


MNScrapbookmom said...

After doing a random search for Kyra because it is my name too, I found your blog. I found your last entry very interesting because I have not ate Ham for over 15 years because it makes MY heart hurt. *Nobody ever believed me... but it does.* Now as an adult I do have severe Acid Reflux and take meds daily for it. Had someone taken me to a doctor earlier perhaps I could have saved a good portion of my esophogus that has now worn away because of heartburn. Very interesting, thanks for the entry, and I hope Kyra feels better soon. Sincerely, Kyra P.- Minnesota

Mb said...

I hate that rat. I know him too well. He is no regarder of faith or prayer or hope or positive thinking. But as parents we have to fight him for the sake of our kids, and to keep him from hounding them. The hardest prescription is watch and wait. It makes it harder to keep him at bay. We've been the pediatric cardiologist route (our daughter fainted 6 times in one day at camp, and once again during gym class, with a racing heart). They found nothing, and after almost a year we're finally ready to accept that it may always be a mystery, and we can let her take driving lessons. Reflux, or GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease) is treatable; my mother,myself, and our daughter have it, and now with our daughter's generation they have remedies, not cures, but remedies. I wish you peace, and a diagnosis. I think both are out there.

the battered ham said...

Thank you both for your kind comments.

mb, you are in a whole different league with cardiologist visits AND driving lessons. I'm still a few years away from the latter. I wish you well.