Thursday, October 13, 2005

No More Drama

Folks, pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit a spell. This entry may very well win a world record for length. I have much to tell about the events of the day. So much, in fact, that I'm not convinced today has only been one day.

When we last met, I told you about my ultrasound, the sex of my child (with illustrations) and the little calcifications on his heart. Because these calcifications are a "soft marker" for Down Syndrome, they wanted to schedule me for a Level II ultrasound (or in layman's terms, an ultra-ultrasound). Fine by me. More chances to peek at the little fellow in my belly.

So I waited all morning on Wednesday for someone to call me from the doctor's office with info on when my appt. would be. I was guessing for sometime next week. Just when I started thinking that I might need to call THEM, I got a phone call. It was my doctor's office... more specifically, it was one of the doctors. She was calling to tell me that they got the results of my AFP test and the score indicated an increased risk of Down Syndrome.

I won't bore you with the details of the test and how it is read, but you should know that this test is almost as likely to give a false positive as a false negative. It is merely a tool to determine if more testing is needed... it is by no means conclusive on its own. So, she wanted to schedule me for... you guessed it... a Level II ultrasound. *sigh* And even though I know this about AFP tests, I still found that getting results that are off of normal in any way is the single best way to terrify a pregnant woman.

Anyway, the doctor passed my file on to an appointment specialist (apparently she had it all morning which is why no one had called me yet to make the appointment) and they called me back within minutes. "Go to this office (address) at 2pm tomorrow. "

Egads! Tomorrow? Thursday afternoon? Why the rush? And dammit... I'm off Thursday morning and all day Friday! Why did they have to pick the afternoon?! So I called the office where I was to go to see if I could reschedule. No go. The next opening they had was next Wednesday, and my doctor really wanted me seen this week. Okay, now I'm scared.

So one of the ladies at work (without me actually asking her) offered to switch schedules with me so that I could work the day shift, thereby not having to come back to work after my ultrasound. Have I mentioned how great the people I work with are?!

Okay... so now we get to today. I went to work and spent all my time working desks because we were short-staffed. Ever since Friday (the Day of Bleeding), that level of work activity has been completely wearing me out. All the standing, sitting, walking, bending, lifting, stretching... it was killing me... causing great discomfort and generally draining my energy. Not today, however. Today, I felt like I wasn't even pregnant. No pain... no heaviness in the belly, and I was even breathing better. I was so excited to be feeling good that I almost forgot about my appointment. But I didn't.

I met Chris for lunch and we headed to the office together. Over lunch, we discussed some of the things that could happen today, and I relayed a conversation I had just had with my friend Staci. Staci has been my inspiration through all these difficulties with the pregnancy even though she lives almost as far away from me as possible while still residing in the continental U.S. She is my inspiration because when she was pregnant with her daughter, she failed every pregnancy test you could possibly take. She was driving three hours to Seattle once a month at least for ultrasounds while they monitored her baby for every defect known to man. And today, she has a perfectly healthy, happy, 16-month-old girl. Take that, you "soft markers!"

Anyway, Staci was very reassuring and gave me some pre-Genetic Counseling coaching, which I shared with Chris. And indeed, I was very prepared for the coaching session as a very pregnant counselor talked us through the risks. Basically, with the AFP results alone, she felt my risk factor was .4%. That's a 4 in 1000 chance I will have a baby with Down Syndrome. The calcifications, if the doctor today confirmed they were there, might bump me to 1.4%. So 14 in 1000. And I'm thinking, "Why the hell am I even here?! I wouldn't bet on those odds anywhere!" So the question of having them stick a needle in my belly to withdrawn amniotic fluid just to see if the baby really had any problems just floated right off the radar. Especially when she said that the risk of a complication with amnio is 1 in 200. I'm not seeing why I need to take a 1 in 200 chance of harming me or my unborn child just to confirm a 14 in 1000 chance. My math skills aren't good, but I'm thinking that's just silly.

Anyway, she left Chris and me alone to talk about it, and we both agreed that the only reason an amnio would even be a topic for further discussion is if the ultrasound showed some problems that we hadn't seen before. And considering how good the tech is at my doctor's office (well, in the Raleigh office... not the Cary one with the dino-sound machine), we really didn't expect to see problems.

And we didn't. What we saw, however, was extraordinary. We actually saw our son sucking his thumb. Better than that, we even got to watch as he moved his hand around in an effort to get his thumb to his mouth first, and then saw him succeed and enjoy the fruits of his labor. Our son is brilliant... even in the womb. The tech got a great picture of it, but unfortunately it doesn't scan well. Otherwise, I would have shared it.

Basically, they measured and evaluated every inch of him, which took a long time considering he's only a few inches long at this point. There was a calcification there (they called it an echo-something), but we once again saw all ten fingers and all ten toes. We saw a normal brain and a normal nose. We saw a heart that was beating well and plenty fast. And of course, we saw that little sign that confirmed once again that we are having a boy. The doctor released me saying that he doesn't feel my risk is any greater than the .4% we started with. We agreed with him, based on our extensive medical knowledge. And we are overjoyed.

So as I am driving home (Chris went to pick up Athena), I think about how glad I am that the drama is past. I'm feeling good, I have a healthy fetus sucking his thumb inside me, and life is good. I couldn't wait to get home and blog about it.

But when I got home, I went straight to the kitchen, where we keep my 13-year-old dog penned up during the day. There were two places where she had vomited, and she had also peed in a another part of the room. This was alarming enough, but then I saw her.

I don't know if I can describe this... basically... she had her head tilted all the way to the right. Her eyes were darting from left to right. And when I opened the gate to let her out, she could barely stand... and then she went the wrong way and ran into a wall. Clearly, this was not good. When I left her this morning, she was perfectly healthy. Now she didn't even seem to know where she was.

I called the vet (fortunately it was only 4pm, so they were open) and they told me to bring her right in. I carried her to the car completely convinced I would be putting my dog to sleep tonight. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the vet, and Murphy's condition was unchanged. She threw up again in the car and was clearly very nauseated.

They saw her immediately, and to make a long story short (?!) they felt sure it was a brain lesion... either a tumor or an infection. The vet started throwing cost estimates at me and explaining the sort of care Murphy would require for the next several weeks. This included a $1200 MRI to discover what was growing inside her skull.

So I'm trying to figure out what I can sell to come up with $1200. Is a kidney worth that much?! They took Murphy away to have blood drawn, which is a requirement for the MRI. I went out to my car to clean up the vomit. I returned to the exam room only about one minute before Murphy. And you will not believe this...

The technician returned with a huge smile on her face. I looked at Murphy and her eyes were no longer flashing back and forth. Her tail was wagging. The tech said that as soon as she drew the blood, the head tilted back up and the eyes stopped flicking. Sure enough, she put Murphy down on the ground and Murph came right up to me with tail wagging and no trouble walking. She followed me as I walked around the room and basically was right back to her normal self. The vet was completely flabbergasted. All she could say was, "I'm calling Neurology [at NCSU vet school] at 8am tomorrow. I have no idea what just happened."

This reminded me of an incident about two months ago when Murphy seemed to have lost the use of the whole right side of her body. I called the vet then, but within the two hours between the time I called and the time the appointment was for, the problem went away. I guessed that maybe her foot had fallen asleep or something, but now we think these two incidents are related. She will call me tomorrow after she talks to NCSU.

Mom thinks it was a stroke. I tend to agree with her. Of course, we have as much medical training as your average 5-year-old, but I still think that must be it. We'll see what they say tomorrow.

So this day has been full of ups and downs. Yes, I'm still scared that we are close to the end for Murphy. And no, I don't feel there is even a .4% chance my son will have Down Syndrome. He seemed perfectly healthy and happy. So not everything is resolved, but at least the coaster seems to have pulled into the station. May tomorrow be uneventful and boring. Amen.


Anonymous said...

There is no doubt in my mind your son is perfect. Who would have thought becoming mommies would make us laugh, cry and worry more in nine months than we have our whole lives?? Thinking of you lots!


A Girl From Texas said...

Wow. I found myself holding my breath while reading this. I loved the image I had in my head as you described his trying to get his thumb to his mouth. That is so sweet.