Thursday, February 2, 2012

Still Reflecting

When we left the g.i. office I was at a loss. A baby is not supposed to be sick. Their new life should be full of wonder, discovery, and vigor, not white coats and needles. Not to mention the now shattered faith I had in the doctors to give us answers, not just more questions.

After the appointment, I dropped Nick and Cole at home because I needed to be alone. As I drove to the hospital pharmacy, anger and confusion took turns swelling over me like waves before ultimately receding to sadness for my son. Why did he have to endure all of this? Why couldn't it be me instead?

I picked up his medicine, but didn't start it that evening because he had a fever. I wanted to be sure he was alright before introducing anything else into his little body. The next day the pharmacy called and was relieved to hear we hadn't begun since the dosing on two of the medications was incorrect. Once we had been apologized to profusely and told correct amounts, we called the doctor to double check again. They assured us it was right.

A few days later one of the gastro doctors called us to check on Cole. It was at this point we learned they were consulting with another doctor in Montreal. His advice was to see an immunologist as soon as possible. The g.i. doctor had already made us an appointment for the following week.

Before the physical, the doctor had many questions about Cole's journey. She discussed her observations about Cole based on his previous tests and her exam. After ordering more blood work to check a few things she told us it was nice to meet us, then, wished us luck since she didn't anticipate the need to see us again.

Imagine my surprise when checking in at the hospital for his appointment and finding her waiting for us. A few outstanding blood tests had returned since we had met and she explained the need to have additional screens run on Cole. One of these tests would go to Roswell Park, not because he had cancer, but because of their expertise in what she was looking to have analyzed. Another would have to be drawn the following week and sent to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital to check something called NK cell function.

While the nurses poked around, commenting on the atrocious state of his veins as he wiggled and wailed, I tried without success to calm Cole with his favorite song, Five Little Monkeys.

All of it hit me in that moment, the past week of expedited appointments and tests, the idea of sending specimens to Roswell and Cincinnati, the g.i. doctor's echo that they had never seen anything quite like this and yet another blood battle, it was like being hurled into a brick wall. Here I began the day thinking we were just having precautionary tests. Within minutes the new detour had thrown me for a loop, leaving me grasping to understand the bits of new information about what NK cells were and what they were hoping to find in these tests, which now felt anything but routine.

Once again, we waited.

The phone call came a few weeks later. Overall, most of the tests were in the normal range, which was a good thing, but the test from Cincinnati was alarming. Cole's NK cells were severely dysfunctional. In other words, his immune system was not working the way it should be. The good news was that he had some function, which was better than the zero that some kids have.

With such low function, as well as Cole's other symptoms, immunology suspected Cole might have a primary immunodeficiency. They referred us to genetics in order to have a test for a rare genetic disorder called NEMOS.

Days dragged as we waited for our appointment, little did we know what kind of wait we were in for.

This appointment was unlike the others. Most of the time we met with a genetic counselor. First, she built an extensive family tree, outlining all medical conditions we were aware of in a few generations of our extended families. Then she explained exactly why Cole was having the test and how results were formulated. Results would take between 4- 6 weeks, maybe longer, since there were more than 20,000 pairs of chromosomal code to be analyzed. Even after the test was complete, results could need further interpretation by comparing them to the genetic codes of my siblings and me.

Once we were clear on what exactly NEMOS was, why the disorder was suspected, and what the testing entailed, we met the doctor. She was compassionate, swiftly completing her assessment while warmly addressing our concerns and giving us advice. After she finished, we signed consent forms for the test and were moved to another waiting room before the blood draw.

This time I let Daddy do the honors as I snuck over to the hospital pharmacy to pick up refills. When the draw was done, we left, emotionally exhausted from the day, with answers seemingly ages away.

Which brings us to today. We are still waiting. Each time the phone rings and I see a doctor's number on the caller id my heart skips a beat.

Throughout all of this, we've faced other challenges. We've continued the food fight, but learned Cole loves bananas and venison, luckily, not together. We've struggled with developmental delays, however he makes a little progress every day and is catching up. We've even come up with a few tricks to get Cole to take his medicines so I am no longer wearing them as my latest accessory.

In the meantime, like other parents, we've been celebrating milestones. Cole's first birthday and first steps, weight gain after a month of weight loss, his literal burst of mobility after the magic course of steroids, and the first full night of sleep.

Every day is different, some much better than others. Yet each day brings out more of his emerging personality, one filled with antics, and let me tell you, with Cole and his sisters, we will never lack for laughter, even in these uncertain times.


  1. The wait must be just aweful! God bless you all. One day at a time. Take care!

  2. Wow! I'm really sorry that all this is happening. You seem to be strong and handling things well! There is purpose in all things and God is aware of you and your needs! We'll be praying for your family!