Last night, we were all sitting around the dinner table. Monkey was finishing up telling me about his day when something by his eye caught my attention. I instantly stopped all conversation, pulled down his lower eye lid expose that the entire lower portion of his eye was bright red. Blood red. A huge blood covered area of his eye.
He instantly started yelling at me to let of him, that he was fine, and what was I doing?
But in that instance, my mind started racing, running through differential diagnoses at light speed. Once we had ruled out trauma (he said no one or nothing had hit his eye), every other possibility, no matter how remote and unlikely, came flying at me.
What someone actually hit him, and he just doesn't want to tell me?
What if it's infected? It could be some awful bacteria or virus. And then what if it's contagious?
What if it's because he has some underlying bleeding disorder that didn't manifest until now?
What if his platelets aren't working, because he's thrombocytopenia because he has leukemia?
Dear lord, he has cancer!
I don't often talk about how being in medicine affects me. How it has changed who I am as a person. How it has changed how I see the world. I am not the same person I was before my medical training. Granted, I was 22 years old when I started, and I would not be the same person regardless of what I had decided to do with my life. But medicine has changed me in ways that I never anticipated. I am both more cynical and more amazed. More confident and more scared. More full of knowledge but more aware of all the things I don't know. I have seen both recovery and death. I have seen miracles and the saddest stories ever. I have seen such a broad array of diseases. I have seen and or read about what I will eventually die from, what everyone I love will die from. I have seen every worst case scenario.
When it comes to my children, I usually play ignorance. I try not to diagnose my children. I feel that as a parent, I deserve the right to freak out just as much as a non-medicine parent. I'm not my children's doctor. I'm their mother. But that fact doesn't calm my brain, doesn't stop the downward spiral I'm already in.
So there, sitting in the kitchen with my son, I have already reached the worse case scenario. In 4 seconds flat, my brain had taken to from he's fine to my child has cancer. Without any evidence, without any actually proof, my brain has already comtemplated the possibility that scares the bejeezus out of me.
I start peppering Monkey with questions: Does it hurt? Is your vision blurry?
I looked at Hubster frantically. "We need to go to the ER."
"But he just said his vision is fine and it doesn't hurt."
"But there is blood in his eye!"
Eventually, Hubster talked me down. I snapped a picture of his eye and sent it to a friend. (That's one of the benefits of being in medicine: you know people.) My friend texted back with a diagnosis of "subconjunctival hemorrhage." Could have been caused by sneezing, rubbing his eyes, etc. Self-resolving. Nothing to worry about. No big deal.
Except that my mind has already gone there, to that horrible place that it often goes when I see the sick, bald children in the hallway of the hospital. What if that was my child? What would I do, how would I cope if my child was sick, horribly, horribly sick? Because I already know the course of these diseases, I already know how those stories play out. And it scares me. Because what's to stop the next little kid undergoing chemo and losing their hair from being my kid? Nothing.
This morning, Monkey is fine. His eye is has a huge blood red area on it, enough to alarm teachers and friends. But he's going to be just fine. But it's hard to shake that feeling I had last night, the mounting "What if's."
I slather my kids with sunscreen, make them wear their seatbelts and bicycle helmets, give them all recommended vaccinations, and keep them off of trampolines. But I know there is only so much I can do, that there are so many things I can't protect them against.
So I just give them extra hugs and kisses at night and try not to think about the worst case scenario.