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Friday, 6 November 2015

The Little Adult

Your child will learn to cope. I did. I had family (cousins) and friends that could run and play, doing active things for hours. In group games I would often find the least active role and take that. With one-on-one play I often insisted on playing games I knew I could cope with physically. I could keep up for a little bit but when I got tired I sought out the company of my parents. This had a few purposes.

  • 1,    Adults tend to sit around and chat. For them it’s quiet normal to be sedentary. When you’re around the adults, they’ll tell you to keep quiet and sit still. No problem there.
  • 2.      My peers would not bother me with the peer pressure whines of “but come on and play – we’re all playing!” Why? Because the adults were watching and listening.
  • 3.      I could usually sneak a bite of descent food.

Being in my parent’s company gave me an opportunity to pause, catch my breath and recoup without having to explain or give reasons.
This had a couple of curious side-effects. Being in the company of adults and having to listen to their boring chatter changed the way I saw things as a child. I could tell when children (my peers) were lying, exaggerating or trying to make themselves seem more important somehow.
I also found much of what they did or talked about immature.

There was also the flip side. When adults talked down to me I didn’t like it much either. I was used to adults talking to each other and speaking to my parents as an adult even though I clearly wasn’t. When an adult turned their voice into this honey coated high-pitched smiley-faced pretense to talk to me I found it nauseatingly false. This could also have been because when cardiac professionals like doctors and professors talked to me as a child it was in a matter-of-fact tone in a normal voice. I appreciated that sincerity.

My parents always expected me to eat what they ate. Perhaps they wanted me to experience all I could due to my condition. Perhaps that’s simply how they were.  Even if you had a normal child though, wouldn’t you want them to also experience all they could?
I’ve always appreciated that they would always allow me a taste of what they were having if we ate out or came across a food I’d not tried yet.
It would baffle me when my friend’s parents would prepare a different set of food for us kids and I’d find it insulting that they found us not worthy to eat what they were having. My how I hated those kid hotdogs that parents handed out with such glee and my peers accepted with such gusto. I speak of a bun with a wiener sausage and a slap of ketchup on. The hotdog I was privy to at home had a warm wiener sausage in a lightly buttered bun with tomato and onion relish on. I wasn’t intentionally being snobbish, it’s simply that when I was offered a hotdog, that’s what I expected because that’s what I normally got.

Then there was the crockery and cutlery. Grown-ups would insist on giving me cool drink in a plastic glass or cup and food on a plastic plate.
Yes I was a child. Yes I broke my fair share of crockery but so do adults. I found it infinitely insulting when I wasn’t offered proper crockery or glass glasses or ceramic cups. It was something my parents didn’t buy into. We had what we had and used what we used. They didn’t go out and especially buy me my own crockery.

What has this if anything to do with a child who has a heart condition?

Well, in conclusion: A child with a heart condition is going to spend far more time surrounded by adults than a “normal” healthy child. Yes, that child will want to be a child (excuse the pun) with all their heart BUT adult ways will rub off on them. They will expect to be treated as an adult in some ways and not in others. Their social experience will be vastly different to other children. Perhaps they will be polite about it as I believe I was or perhaps not. Try to understand and treat them with love.

Until the next blog, bye for now.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

The Teeth in the Wardrobe

There are things a child with a heart condition will live through that seem completely unrelated to their condition. On later inspection they're part of the intricate paisley pattern of the whole thing.

I was very young. Possibly in the later part of my fifth or early sixth year. We (mom, dad and I) were staying in the cottage behind my grans house. It was a half-way-home as we were moving house. That being said, nothing was in its right place and everything was in its wrong place.
Being a child, curious and in a new environment I would explore. Dig into things I aught not to dig in and find things I shouldn't.

I was scratching around in my parent's wardrobe and happened upon a large plastic, partially opaque, pharmaceutical pill container. It was the biggest one I'd ever seen. So large my small hand couldn't close around it. It also appeared to be  full of pills. Perhaps it was from being around medical people and places so much but even at that age I had no inclination and knew not to take pills unless instructed to. I did however like their colours and structures and was always curious as to their intent. "What do they do?" was usually my first question when presented with pills.

This pill box was strange though. There was no label. There was always a label. This made me more curious so I peered through the semi-transparent plastic body of the bottle at the pills trying to discern their colour and shape. Realization hit. They weren't pills. I had in my hand a bottle filled to bursting capacity with an assortment of teeth. I wasn't horrified by this at all. Actually I do recall the thought I had and that was "Wow. Where did my parent's get a bottle of teeth and could we get more?"
I also remember the moment when the realization (and that was tinged with a little bit of shock) that I was holding a bottle of my own teeth.

Yes, other children have had their teeth extracted, possibly even a large amount. Enough to fill a very large pill container but it's only later in life that I realized that this bottle of teeth was a symptom of my heart condition.
You see, in those days I was given a lot of that liquid penicillin. A slimy, sweet-bitter false banana flavoured medicine that was kept in the fridge. It was dispensed to me by doctors like a beverage in the hopes that it would keep me free of illness. One of the terrible side effects was that it made my teeth very weak. The other problem was that like any child I loved sweets. Being a child with a heart abnormality led to me being spoilt in this department. Out of sympathy, trying to be nice, I  don't really know, people would give me sweets and I would eat them. Sweets and penicillin are not a good combination for a healthy set of teeth and I had to have most of mine extracted. All at once.
It was during this procedure that it was discovered that I had an allergy to that surgical gas they use to put you under. I remember dreaming of bad scrambled eggs and feeling very, very ill. I also remember waking up and my mouth feeling very odd and uncomfortable. More I don't remember.

So back to the little boy holding a bottle of his own teeth...

Even though I knew they were my teeth and the realization was a bit shocking, I also knew I probably wasn't supposed to find them. I put them back and decided it wasn't my business right now. Perhaps my parents would give them to me when I was older, I thought. Perhaps when I was old enough to understand like they so often told me.
I was worried I'd be too old and not want to play with them. It sounds horrible but trust me, this is how little it bothered me.

Conclusions: Children with a heart condition will obviously go through far more than "normal" children. Things no child should probably go through. I think most of us bounce back.
If your child finds a bottle of his own teeth in your wardrobe, don't freak out. Through your horror, try to smile and find out what they're feeling about the whole thing. Explain and be loving and gentle.

Bye for now, until the next blog.