Most of the time, Charlotte is just Charlotte–funny, sassy, smart, and sweet as honey. Most of the time, I see her scars as you see your child’s freckle, or the scar from their skateboard crash. In other words, scars are just part of who she is. At bath time I see her big scar, however, and some part of my brain registers all that it means.
About once a year, we are reminded in full force of the meaning of all of her scars, what they have brought us, and what we (and she) will have to endure for the rest of her life.
That time came a few weeks ago when Charlotte had her cardiology check up with her new Boston cardiologist, Dr. Lucy Arnold. It was a bittersweet meeting–we LOVE Dr. Young and have been her patient (me, too) since 2005. Change doesn’t come easy. But, Dr. Arnold was recommended by our pediatrician, Dr. Mitchell, and we quickly understood why.
That’s Charlotte’s heart on the screen. And, yes, there’s Bubba, ever-present.
We had two appointments. At the first, Charlotte had her EKG and a physical exam. When Dr. Arnold entered the room, Charlotte was having a full out tantrum because she can’t stand the EKG stickers. The stickers connect twelve leads to the machine which, in turn, creates an image of the electrical changes in her heart by measuring the electrical impulses in each heartbeat. The stickers are very sticky and taking them off has not, in the past, been easy. But, you can imagine that a hissy fit can affect the reading. The longer she fusses, the longer the test goes on. Dr. Arnold managed to calm her down very quickly. I got the sense, however, that Dr. Arnold might have thought Charlotte was spoiled or that I wasn’t effective at handling her. While I liked her manner with Charlotte, I was worried about her impression of us.
Everything looked good upon the first exam so we schedule the follow up appointment with for an echo cardiogram. I spent about a month working with Charlotte to make sure that Dr. Arnold’s second impression of her was better than the first. Charlotte walked in smiling, hopped up on the table, and cooperated gleefully, all the while chatting about her school day.
Dr. Arnold brought a student technician and narrated the entire 45 minute exam, talking about truncus arteriosus and Charlotte’s particularities. She also answered Charlotte’s questions, such as:
“Why does the image show blue and red?” The different colors indicate the direction in which the blood is flowing (not oxygenated/deoxygenated, as I had thought), so that the doctor can see that it is flowing where it should and when it should.
“What does a valve do?” It works like a door, opening and closing to let the blood in when it should come in.
Charlotte was calm and happy the whole time, only getting antsy in the last 5 minutes or so. And Dr. Arnold was terrific with her.
The hero of the day, however, was Maria, the technician. When the exam was over, Charlotte took a deep breath and started to cry and fuss about taking off the three stickers from the echo leads. I tried reasoning with her about how much less sticky they are than the EKG ones. We were about to leave it that they could soak off in the bath (really just a delay tactic as they don’t soak as well as band aids). Maria walked over with the sonogram gel and said, “I have a trick for the stickers.” As she explained her trick, she squirted some gel on and around the lead and it slipped right off. Charlotte was protesting, “No, I don’t want to try that,” but it was already done. So Charlotte let Maria take off the other two as well.
I think Charlotte (and hopefully me, too) made a much better second impression on Dr. Arnold. I know we were as happy, if not happier, the second visit, too.
Now, you’re wondering, what about her heart? Well, rest assured if there were big news, I’d have led with that! From her initial impressions, Dr. Arnold sees slight stenosis in the pulmonary artery, but nothing that is affecting blood flow yet. Other than that, all the heart functions look healthy. We’re still awaiting the “official” report, but it all looks normal (for Charlotte) for now.