The hardest day to get through was Wednesday, the day after we got the news that London would need an MRI and a neurosurgery consult. Though we knew that the challenges of having a preemie were not over, we did not expect to encounter an obstacle quite as scary as this. But, with some prayer and time we reacquainted ourselves with the frame of mind necessary to get through the NICU days. That frame of mind is a place where you never forget that you’re not in control. The NICU does not allow for you to believe you are in control of anything. It is like you have been dropped into a boxing ring and all you can do is roll with the punches, no telling how awfully painful the next one is going to be, nor from where it will be coming. We got pretty good at that last winter and by Thursday I think we both felt better in a way. I even made a joke about it. After Kate asked me what I had decided to give up for Lent I said, “Hope.”
We waited until the following Tuesday for the MRI. We were told it was a rapid MRI, a brain shunt series, which would take about five minutes and London would not have to be sedated for it. The consult would follow right afterward so there would be instant results.
At Children’s we were taken to an MRI waiting room. There were no small gowns for London to wear so she wore pants half a foot longer than her legs and a top that looked like a Snuggie. Kate and I chose to be in the room for the MRI so we had to get rid of all metal we had on. Zippers were okay. After a few minutes we were ushered down a very long hallway into the MRI room, where the door was lined with a metal detector, ready to catch any metal on or in our bodies that we forgot to mention in the screening process.
This MRI room was out of a Sci-Fi movie. It would have looked right at home in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The walls were of white gloss and the lighting made the room glow an interesting mix of blue and white. London was placed on the MRI bed, which had a blue pad on it that the nurses kept calling a “blue snuggly.” They warned us that once London was on the bed, they would fold up the sides, buckle them together, and suck all the air out of the snuggly to vacuum pack London. They added, kids don’t like this very much and they start to squirm and cry.
We folded up the sides of the snuggly, snapped the four buckles up from London’s feet to her upper chest. Her head was braced with many cushions, but first earplugs were added to protect her from the noises of the MRI. And then a nice lady sucked all the air out of the blue snuggly. By all measures London seemed to enjoy the whole experience. She did not make a peep and was even smiley. The bed slid into the MRI and the scanning began. London could look toward her feet and see us standing there waving and smiling back. She made two noises of distress, but quickly calmed down when she saw us. Five minutes later, she was done, and free from the blue snuggly.
We then had to go upstairs and check in for the neurosurgery consult. Within ten minutes we were sitting with a very nice lady who did not cut to the chase right away, but by the way she spoke and by the words she chose, I had a good feeling. She gave us a complete rundown on hydrocephalus and brain shunts. We looked at images of London’s head. In one image we got to see all of her teeth, although she only has three that have broken through. The rest of them were floating at various heights above and below the mouth. We went over the symptoms of hydrocephalus. There was a lot of talk about the size of my head. This was not news, but to prove the point the lady measured my head to confirm. 63cm. She said anything above 59cm is huge. And hey, it turns out Kate’s head is sort of big too.
London, we were told, has generous ventricles, but shows no signs of hydrocephalus. Of course, we should still monitor her head size and maybe at age 2 another MRI. Apparently, the MRI images told the doctors that there was nothing to be “excited” about, an interesting choice of words. If there was an issue, excitement would not be the feeling I would have. I found myself excited because there was not an issue.
We spent a very long time talking about London’s head and why it looks like London has adjusted nicely to her generous ventricles. As soon as we were out, Kate returned to work and I called my parents who, I know, were anxiously waiting for news and probably not expecting to have waited this long.
I returned home with London, relieved to an extent I cannot describe. I spent a lot of that afternoon and evening looking at London even more than usual, admiring her strength and attitude, and imagining the day I would tell London about the first year of her life. What would I tell her about a day like today? And what about the days far scarier and more exhausting than this one? I don’t know, but I know she will love the ending.