What if you knew that in a matter of minutes your whole world could come crashing down? That those you hold most dear could be ripped from your grasp in an attempt to free them from overwhelming bonds that hold them? That to help them heal, you had to let them go through their own version of hell? That, no matter what you tried, you couldn’t ease the suffering at all?
That’s what I wondered as I held my baby. Emerson Charles Brown, a beautiful boy with an adorably impish grin. I held him in my arms as I had when he was born, 15 years ago. “Baby…Em…I love you.” I managed to gasp out. “It’s gonna be okay, baby,” I soothed as his body started to shake in my embrace, “You’re gonna come out of this just fine. You’re a fighter, a Brown, and don’t you ever forget that.”
He nodded, tears making patterns on his cheeks to match those on mine. “I know, Mama. I know.”
But I could see the terror he was trying to hide. His bright, brilliant green eyes spoke what he wouldn’t. What he couldn’t. Mama, I’m scared. I know the success rate is 90-some, but...well, what if? What if I’m that small percent? What if I lose you?
What if I lose you? is what I want to say. What if I lose my only baby, someone I used to consider a mistake, to something like this?
I know it’s not my place to say anything though. Not to beg him to give up a life of freedom from restraints to ensure his survival. I trust the doctors, I really do, but I don’t trust…well, I just am not 100% sure that my baby’s going to get through this. I tell him I am so he won’t back out, but a small and irrational part of my heart worries.
Emerson was diagnosed at birth as a Type 1 Diabetic. He grew up much like his friends – indulging in cake, sweets, pizza, and everything you or I can eat – with the exception that he had to give himself injections. I started him fairly early on an insulin pump, figuring that one small shot every 3 days or so was better than one every time he ate.
It was a nightmare. Try explaining to your 3 year old why you have to poke him and keep a cord attached into his belly. Constantly, every time I had to change his site, he would ask me what he did wrong. “Mama, what did I do? Why do you keep doing this?” It’s every mother’s nightmare.
So there we sat, waiting in the cold lobby for the surgical team to come collect him. I remembered vaguely our past day of celebration, the headlines crying out about a cure for diabetics. The tears fell like they had that day, only now in fear instead of joy. Of course I was excited for him – he’d get to live a normal life. I was just worrying like mother’s are apt to do.
A small nurse peeked out from behind the huge wooden door. “Emerson Brown?”
I squeezed his hand, pulling him out of the stiff waiting room chair and into my arms again. “I love you, Emerson. Don’t you ever think for one moment that I don’t,” I tried to say without sobbing and failed.
His grin electrified his face. “Don’t worry, Mama. Even if something goes wrong, I’ll be with Dad. And, anyways, I’m going to be fine.” He let the nurse lead him away, and I sat back down.
7 hours. That’s how long I had to wait before anyone came out to say a single word to me about my baby. 7 horrible, terrifying, miserable hours spent worrying that every team rushing through the hallways was carrying my boy in tow.
I was awakened from a restless sleep in an uncomfortable chair by a man’s strong grip on my shoulder. “Mrs. Brown?” I heard.
Mumbling a “yes,” I sat up. Realizing quickly where I was and why, I grabbed the doctor by the collar. “Where is Emerson? Is he okay? Did it work? How long is he going to have to stay here? When can I see him?”
He laughed a deep laugh that matched the warmth in his brown eyes. “He’s fine. The surgery went flawlessly, and we expect him out of here in 3 to 5 days at the most. As for when you can see him, come right this way. I’ll bring you there myself.”
I was suddenly surprised to feel arms around me, hugging me tight. He’s gonna be fine, Christina, I hear in my ear.
“Tom?” I breathed, hardly daring to believe. My late husband. I knew it was a figment of my imagination, or whatever else people try to brush those experiences off as, but I let it comfort me just the same.
I squared my shoulders and set off to go see my baby boy: Emerson Charles Brown, survivor.
So, something a bit different, yes? I've been thinking a lot lately (what with President Obama lifting the veto on stem cell research once he gets into office and all) about the future. My future, and that of the millions of other people in the world with Type 1 Diabetes. Wouldn't this be amazing, to be able to cure a disease as awful as that - not to mention the others it would help as well.
Let's hope I get to go through what Emerson did. Go in, be scared (because I will be), but come out...free.