I’ve looked over the shoulders of enough sonographers to know how worried I need to be.
Four chambers– check.
Visible major vessels– check.
Inflow/outflow balance– check.
A quick visit means good news.
This trip was even more pleasurable because our Social Worker dropped in to say hello. Sure, it’s a bit strange to realize that people get paged when you show up at Children’s National Medical Center, but everyone likes to revel in their own celebrity, real or imagined.
Our Cardiologist stuck her head in the door, too, and was kind enough to ease the tension by announcing, “Well, I can see four chambers from here!” She excused herself as the rest of us chatted away (even the medical fellow who was observing seemed to be enjoying our banter). When all of the gel was cleaned up and The Wife enacted her customary clearing and replacement of the paper which covers the bed, we made our way back down the hall to where we started. But what was this? We took a familiar right and then another right. But the third right pointed us inexorably to the Blue Room. Aka, the Consultation Room. Aka, the Room of Very Bad News. Aka, the room where our lives were shattered four years ago.
I see the room in the dark corners of my memory and in my bad dreams. And while I’ve visited the room where my son died (several times), I had never imagined that I would ever return to this room. Like a dog that plants all four feet and refuses to proceed, I could feel my inner inertia shift. “Oh, no, not the Blue Room,” I heard myself say. My wife and our social worker looked at me with empathy, but went in anyway. I followed, and even sat down, but not for long. While they chatted about a Mad Hatter birthday party, I escaped into the hallway. Lots of deep breathing followed, along with muttering self-talk and some tears. Until a nurse sidled up slowly to hand me a box of scratchy tissues and to utter the lie that everyone says to blubbering parents: “It’ll be okay.”
Friends and strangers say this, and it’s not true. This nice woman probably imagined I was getting bad news today, not knowing that I’m getting good news, but that bad news is eternally retroactive. So I smiled and tried to reassure her. Then I returned to the dreaded room to sit and wait and push back the panic that screamed, “The real reason your social worker is here with you in this Blue Room is because your fourth child has a heart anomaly much like your first child. She’s here because you’re doomed, and so are your progeny.”
But of course the cardiologist arrived a few minutes later with a clean bill of perfect health. Leaving me with the familiar feeling that in my relief and celebration, I’m leaving my son behind.