medical practice

When Calvin started having seizures when he was only two years old, we made countless trips to the emergency room of our local hospital. It quickly became clear that the hospital could not always handle Calvin’s complicated health, particularly since it lacked a pediatric intensive care unit. So, a half dozen times or more, after dangerously prolonged seizures, the Maine Medical Center’s pediatric emergency transport team came to gather Calvin and shuttle him thirty miles to their facility in a special pediatric ambulance.

On one occasion, after a twenty-minute seizure, Calvin landed in a cramped room in that hospital’s emergency department. White coated doctors and nurses buzzed around him taking vital signs and asking me about his medical history. I rattled off the long list of his diagnoses followed by the long list of his medications. Calvin had a fever and a rash all over his body. The attending and resident physicians suspected meningitis. We were told that, to confirm their theory, they were going to perform a spinal tap on Calvin, a painful and risky procedure that could result in paralysis. I feared that that course of action might also trigger another seizure, the kind most feared, the kind that never stops.

As Michael and I were expressing our grave concern about the spinal tap fresh resident and attending physicians took over and discussed Calvin’s case. The attending doc posed thoughtful questions to the intern regarding the nature of Calvin’s rash that might indicate the likelihood of meningitis. They determined that it was not meningitis and, with that, Calvin was spared a dangerous and distressing procedure.

We’ve been up against these types of quandaries time and time again since just before Calvin was born. My husband always reminds me, regarding the nature of the medical field and its infinite uncertainties about cases such as Calvin's, “that’s why they call it a medical practice.”

photo by Michael Kolster

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