Monday, May 21, 2012

Preventative Medicine

Last week, my daughter Bean fell off a neighbor's garbage can (I guess they're fun to climb) and hit the back of her head. She came in crying, and we sat her down to relax for a while. After an hour passed, she swore she wasn't getting better and that she was drowsy and dizzy. S tends to grossly exaggerate injuries or illness, so it's very difficult to tell what's real and what's a performance. But we didn't want to take any chances with a head injury. My husband got ready to take her to the emergency room. It occurred to me that if we didn't have a referral from our on-call pediatrician we would get slapped with a big bill, so I called.

After a chat with the doctor, we decided that she didn't need to go to the emergency room after all. We kept her up for a couple of hours before sending her to bed.

The next morning, my son Jay came in to wake me up.  I greeted him happily, but quickly realized that Bean was still asleep.  Or not asleep, but probably dead from an epidural hematoma.  Brain dead at best.  I asked Jay, "Want to go wake up Bean?" He happily agreed.

I knew it was wrong of me to bring Jay upstairs to watch me find his dead sister.  But I couldn't let go of him--his skinny little monkey body can be such a comfort.  All the way upstairs, I thought "Epidural hematoma.  Epidural hematoma."  I did my best to form a picture in my mind of what it would be like to find Bean white and cold, while still allowing that the reality would be far, far worse than anything I could dream up.

I did not do this because I thought being prepared would make it easier when I found her.  I did it because I believe with every fiber of my being that imagining the worst case scenario in grotesque detail is 100% effective preventative medicine.  The better I am at visualizing what it will be like when I find that my daughter has died during the night, the greater the chance that I will be greeted with a smile, a hug and a giggle.  I don't think I have to tell you what was waiting for me behind that bedroom door.

This home remedy works like a charm.  If my son has a stomach ache, I just assume that his appendix have burst and he's dying of sepsis.  If my husband is out and I can't reach him, it stands to reason that he is living out his final hours in agony on the side of a deserted road somewhere. His injuries aren't necessarily fatal, but by the time someone finds him it will be too late. Every plane my brother flies on is going to crash. I am not a crazy mother, terrifying my children with my superstitions--I keep my macabre fantasies to myself. Although this may be irresponsible of me, when you consider how well it works. I have saved these people's lives more times than I can count, so actively trying to deprive the next generation of my healing powers seems foolish. Maybe even cruel. I don't know why I bother trying to protect them from something that has gotten all of us out of numerous sticky situations. My mom does it. My grandma did it. The fact that our bloodline has survived this long is proof it must go back further than that. Should I let such a valuable family secret die with me?

Of course, having written this, I know I'm asking for it. The tragedy that could result from my acknowledging my wellness plan out loud will strike where I least expect it, so I know what I have to do. Make a mental list of every single person I care about in the least, and dream up every possible misfortune that could befall them. I have a long night of visualizing ahead of me. But tomorrow morning when you wake up safe and sound, you'll know who to thank. The one who put you in peril in the first place.


  1. Nice! I tend to do the opposite though, believing somehow that picturing something horrible will make it come to pass, and that worrying over nothing will make me horribly stressed.

    1. Oh yes, it's very stressful. But so effective! I can't help it anyway--I'm just wired that way.

  2. Hahaha! I totally do this. ALL THE TIME. So relieved to find out I'm not the only one.