Saturday, July 8, 2017

Why I Was Away

I had a couple of people ask me why I hadn't written anything lately, and I realized that it has been almost a month since I last wrote.

There are two main reasons that I haven't written.  The first reason was that I was in trial on a felony murder case.  It lasted for five days, but stretched across two weeks, so it kept me preoccupied.

The trial was largely fought over punishment, and it turned out pretty well, all things considered.  The prosecutors were above-board and did a great job, and I was very happy to try a case in front of visiting Judge Belinda Hill again.

The second reason for the absence from the blog was probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to me in my life.

I won't keep you hanging.  The story has a happy ending, but only after the longest six days I've ever lived through.

Over the past several weeks, my wife and I noticed that our 3-year-old was really having a significant problem with bruising.   He was bruising easily and those bruises were taking an overly long time to heal.  Given that he runs around like a bull in a china shop during the majority of his waking hours, we weren't overly concerned.  A persistent ear infection was causing him more problems.

On Thursday, June 29th, we had friends in from out of town and our kid fell while playing with their son.  He landed on his shins, but it only slowed him down temporarily.  He was up and running around again in a few minutes.  But the next day, his shins looked like someone had taken a 2X4 to them, repeatedly.  The bruises were huge and dark.

My wife decided to take him in to our pediatrician on Saturday for his ear infection and while he was there, the doctor was (understandably) concerned about bruising.  She took pictures and drew blood.  My wife texted me and said she thought we were about to get reported to CPS.  The doctor told my wife that we should get the blood results back later that afternoon.  We went about our business for the rest of the afternoon.  I think we both were expecting the blood results to show some level of anemia.

We were on our way out the door to a friend's birthday party when the doctor called with lab results.

She told us that the average healthy person has between 150,000 to 400,000 platelets in their blood.  Our son's blood test indicated that he only had 9,000.  She told us it wasn't safe to have him out of a hospital and that she was calling ahead to Texas Children's Hospital Emergency Room.  She told us to get him there immediately.

At this point, any illusions I've ever held about myself being a cool hand in a crisis went out the window.  I freaking lost it.  Like bad.  It wasn't pretty.  Fortunately, my wife was much more calm.  We quickly packed up some bags, dropped my 11-year-old off with his mom and headed to the ER.

The personnel at Texas Children's were fantastic, and they were not quite as alarmed (or alarming) as our pediatrician.  They had read the blood results and said that our son had a condition called thrombocytopenia and there were multiple potential causes for it.  Some of the causes could be as benign as a virus.  Others could be much more serious  -- such as leukemia or worse.  In some cases, the body could correct the problem on its own within a few months.  In others, it could be fatal.

The signs were good for our boy.  Other than the extremely low platelet count, everything else about his blood test was fine.  His spleen and lymph nodes felt normal.  His color was good.  He didn't appear to be tired or suffering from nose bleeds.  Under the circumstances, the ER doctor sent us home with orders to follow up with a pediatric hematologist on Monday.  Our pediatrician, who had kept in touch with us throughout the ordeal, expressed her concerns.  Both doctors agreed that he needed to be confined to virtually zero activity.  A cut or a bump on the head could be potentially fatal.

So, we brought him home, quickly to realize that our hyperactive 3-year-old did not get the memo about all of this "bedrest" business that the doctors ordered.  I have never felt on the verge of a heart attack so frequently in such a short period of time.

It turned out that we couldn't be seen by the pediatric hematologist until Thursday.  For future reference, having a medical emergency during the 4th of July weekend is really, really horrible timing.  So, we spent from Saturday night to Thursday afternoon scared to death that our kid was going to die.  During the night, I would wake up terrified that he was going to have a spontaneous brain bleed and during the day, we were doing everything we could to keep him from injuring himself.

My sister was a Godsend.  She drove in from College Station to babysit him while I had court and my wife was at work.  She and my wife were both amazing, which is good.  I was completely useless.  I spent six days feeling like my chest was about to implode.

On Thursday, we finally met with a pediatric hematologist at UT Health Science Center.  She was much more encouraging and said that our kiddo wouldn't need any chemo or blood transfusions.  She said that his bone marrow was producing platelets just fine, but that his condition (something called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purupora, or ITP) meant his immune system responded to a viral infection he probably had about a month ago and was mistakenly destroying platelets instead of the virus.  She said that once the immune system self-corrected, the platelets should replenish fairly rapidly, and could be back up to 50% within three months. When I told her that I was worried he was going to die, she seemed somewhat amused.   She did recommend no physical activity for the time being, and said he needed to wear a helmet during waking hours until his platelet level got up to at least 50,000, and that we needed to watch for any active bleeding and take him to the ER if that occurred.

She sent him down for additional blood work after our appointment, which he was not happy about at all. She said his platelet count could already be on the upswing and she'd call us with the results the next day.  Friday as I was pulling into the county garage, the doctor called and said Smith's platelet count was already back up to 120,000.  Honestly, I don't know if I've ever felt so relieved in my life.

I walked away from the experience with my son with a couple of thoughts:

1.  It is completely normal for two qualified, intelligent, and well-meaning experts to have two drastically different opinions of what evidence shows them;

2.  Having a career in the criminal justice field really leads you down some dark paths when it comes to imagining the worst case scenario;

3.  There's a tremendous difference between empathy and sympathy.  I've always considered myself to be an empathetic attorney -- first as a prosecutor and now as a defense attorney.  We deal with human tragedy as part of our daily work and I think sometimes we let ourselves believe that we feel our client's pain (or a victim's family's pain) as if it were our own.  This experience has led me to realize that our sympathy for others never scratches the surface of the real and genuine pain that the people who actually experienced the loss feel.   That's not a negative reflection on us.  It's just the truth.  My story had a happy ending, but for six days, I honestly didn't believe I could go on if I lost my kid.  It rattled the hell out of me.

To all of those who have lost children or who have children that deal with long-term, life-threatening illnesses, I honestly don't know how you manage.  You are far stronger than I could ever imagine being;

And finally,

4.  I hope I never spend another moment of my life failing to appreciate what the truly important things in life are.  Complaining is a daily part of life, and it is certainly a routine part of this blog.  I'm sure that I will ultimately get back to my obnoxious, jackass self and writing about wrongs that I think need to be righted.

But right now, my kid is on the mend and sleeping in his my bed.

So, I've got no complaints.


Thomas Hobbes said...

For what it's worth, I actually smiled when I read your post. I have three kids who are 17+, and I still have transient fears for how the world will treat them. You're a good man, Murray. Hang in there.

Roger said...

Wow! I can not even imagine the feelings you guys experienced. Thankfully, Smith will be just fine. I don't think I'd have held it together very wel either.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness hes on the mend👍

Tom said...

I can't imagine the terror you must have felt when you got the first blood results. Thank heaven that everything should be OK.

Unknown said...

It's good to hear your son is going to be ok. My thoughts and prayers are with your family.

Unknown said...

Thanks for making me cry at work. Beautiful post...unbelievably thankful that things have turned out as they have. I learned all kinds of stuff on the internet while we were waiting on results/appointments. How's Luke in all this?


MDW said...

Tremendous write up, on all levels. Most importantly the outcome rocks. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but what's happening at the DA's Office? Just kidding. Glad everything worked out so well!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Is someone chopping onions? So glad everything is going to be alright.
Gig em.

Paul Simpson said...

And cause for worry never ends, Murray. We're in Albuquerque this week while our 25-year old recovers from a health scare brought in by low sodium while on a retreat in the New Mexico mountains. God laughs at people making plans. Love life, enjoy the moment, stay balanced, and thank the Lord for every day and gifts you have.

Murray Newman said...

Thank you for all the kind words, everybody. I truly appreciate them.

Paul, I hope your 25-year-old is okay.

Tom Berg said...

That was a scary post and am glad your little one will rebound. Our squabbles are minute by comparison and it is the future these precious, fragile progeny that truly matters.

Jigs said...

Nice! Very happy your son is fine.