I sat with Amira in that impossibly small, claustrophobic examination room at the paediatric walk-in clinic, while the doctor listened to her heart for several minutes.
When was the last time the doctor listened to your heart for longer than 10 seconds?
Minutes, people. Like, I was wondering if the doctor got lost in her own thoughts and forgot what the hell she was doing.
Finally, the doctor looked up and said, “She needs to see a paediatric cardiologist.”
In that moment, the world stopped. I had brought Amira in because I thought she had an ear infection. The last thing I expected was a referral to a paediatric cardiologist.
But there we were, sitting in this office, with this doctor who couldn’t have been more than 25 years old telling me that my daughter’s heartbeat was highly irregular, and that it was imperative she see a specialist as soon as possible.
Amira wasn’t even two years old. What the hell do you mean she has to see a fucking cardiologist??
Late that night, I crept down to Amira’s room and picked her up in my arms. I sat down with her in my lap, and put my head to her chest while she slept, listening for whatever I had missed. I mean, how could she be so sick that she needed so see a cardiologist? 8 hours ago, I was tearing my hair out because I was worried she was developing an ear infection. I was not prepared to deal with this. I was barely prepared to deal with an ear infection. Anything wrong with her heart was just out of the question.
I know a lot of people say a lot of shit about doctor wait-times in Ontario, but I got a call the next day from the cardiologist’s office, with an appointment for Amira the day after.
I remember sitting at my desk while Amira napped just before we went to the appointment. I remember crying uncontrollably, terrified that this visit would start in the doctor’s office and end in the hospital, or worse. The fact that we were supposed to be moving to Costa Rica in less than a month was the furthest thing from my mind. Every worst case scenario crept into the recesses of my brain, threatening to destroy me.
I thought about all the things I could have done to cause this. Was it because I had problems breastfeeding? Was it because I gave her formula? Was it because I didn’t give her enough spinach? Was it because I let her play at the construction site down the street on the weekends when there was no one there? She loved to climb on the bulldozers – but maybe there was something in the air there that had made her sick. Maybe I gave it to her. Because I have a benign heart murmur. Maybe my non-condition translated into an actual condition in her tiny body, that was threatening both her life and mine.
Even writing about it now, I just can’t find the words to adequately describe the feeling of knowing that something could be wrong with Amira. In the absence of an actual diagnosis, my mind was at liberty to freely roam into the darkest places, with no way to pull myself out because I couldn’t fix it. This wasn’t something I could just kiss better. This wasn’t something I could take her mind off with a cookie. This wasn’t a problem that sitting in the rocking chair with her in the middle of the night could solve. It was completely out of my control, and that was completely unthinkable. That something bad could happen to her was completely unthinkable.
I remember sitting in the office of the cardiologist, while she sat and played with Amira for the first 10 minutes of the appointment. I was sitting there thinking, “Lady, something is wrong with this child. Why are you playing with trucks and Elmo stickers? FIX HER.” But she took her time getting Amira comfortable before she reached for her stethoscope.I guess she knew what she was doing. I was about to have an aneurism.
Finally, she listened to Amira’s heart. For a long time. She asked me a ton of questions about her eating habits (great), her activity level (non-stop), her sleep (pretty good) and her general cognitive development (Um, are you listening to her talk?). She did an ECG on her, and even called in another cardiologist, who spent the whole time having a conversation with Amira about the different types of construction equipment this not even 2-year-old was familiar with.
And Amira was fine. She is fine. The cardiologist told me that kids will have moments of arrhythmia, but given that Amira’s general health was perfect, she was probably fine. She said Amira may develop a heart murmur similar to mine when she gets older, and it would probably be fine. She gave me her card, and even wrote her personal cell phone number on it, telling me to call her if I had any questions or concerns. The doctor was great. And my daughter was fine.