truth in numbers

I've been thinking a lot lately about the course of events in Calvin's life and putting them down, bit by bit, in a memoir. Yesterday, I began writing about Calvin's first seizure—the first one we knew of—when he was just eighteen months old and shortly after he said Mama for the first and the last time. Out of curiosity, I requested his immunization records which I got in the mail today. On August 19th of 2005, he receive his DTaP immunization, which would have been right around the time of his first seizure. I need to contact the hospital to see which came first.

One of Calvin's health care specialists, in helping me gather some of this info, said this to me:

Just because I am a numbers person, I thought you might be equally intrigued: Calvin's chart is 1,083 pages long, each page representing a consult note, office visit, physical exam, phone call, lab result, or MRI. He has been to our office 171 times and we have notes from 240 separate specialist visits. With Calvin just hitting his 11th year, this means he has spent 10% of his days seeing a medical provider. These stats just remind me of how hard you work to take care of him. I know we, at our office, appreciate your efforts; I hope others do the same.

Seeing these kind of numbers stunned me. No wonder I am so tired, I thought, and I realize that Calvin probably very easily spent thrice as much time seeing medical providers in the first several years of his life.

The numbers are dizzying—the milliliters and milligrams and seizures and minutes and temperatures doctors and nurses and appointments and sleepless nights and wake-up times and suppositories and diapers and drugs and doses and days between seizures. They get me down and yet there's truth in them and perhaps they can teach me something and for sure they act as reminders and markers validating a life—a hardship—saying, Calvin was here, we did this and, although it was shitty, somehow we persevered.

Calvin, still in the hospital, when he was five weeks old. Photo by Michael Kolster

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