Monday 16 September 2013

'It looked like a bug bite'

Everyone's baby is a miracle. Let's get that out of the way first. Your little guy (or gal) is the most important thing in your world. The greatest. One of a kind.

Dominic was our miracle. After five years of trying to get pregnant, we finally gave up. No more drugs, no more meetings with doctors. Just as we'd started looking in to adoption, however, we conceived.

Trish was in disbelief for months. When he was finally born, we were overjoyed - as you'd expect.

As far as babies go, we're now biased but were amazed at how beautiful he was. As he grew up he didn't experience any health problems, slept like a hibernating bear and smiled and laughed more than we thought humanly possible. A real ladies man, by the way.

We took him on the Dominic World Tour this summer, meeting as many family and friends as we could along the way. We took him swimming ever since he was two months old, leading to the obvious joke that he's my little swimmer. I took thousands of photos of the guy and started posting videos of him on YouTube.

Three weeks ago, everything changed.

Dom stopped sleeping well. He had a fever. There was a red spot on his left temple. It looked like a bug bite. We didn't think much of the spot but the lack of sleep and fever suggested he was battling a typical cold.

Good, I thought. This is how kids' immune systems develop. You get sick, your body figures out how to fight it, it goes away. Next time you're more likely to fend it off.

If it were that simple I wouldn't be writing this.

After a week we decided to see the family doctor. She looked at him, discounted the spots but noticed an ear infection and thus gave him a basic antibiotic to help him. We went home, but after two days he wasn't doing any better. If anything, he was getting a bit worse.

There were a couple more spots now, and Trish was starting to get worried, but I convinced her he probably just needs a different medication. We went back to the doctor and got a stronger antibiotic.

That was a week ago today, Sept. 9, 2013. Over the next two days our concerns only grew, and so did his little tummy. Dom was always a bit chubby but aren't most babies? Still, his stomach seemed tight, and bigger than usual. Getting his diaper on was more of a stretch (sorry, bad pun).

The night of Sept. 11 Trish emailed our family doctor. She responded by suggesting we go to a local pediatrician the following morning, as he had drop-in hours from 9 a.m. until noon.

I knew the doctor through the local tennis club. But I was surprised that he wasn't more cordial with me while he was checking Dominic. He felt his stomach carefully, then had his assistant come back to the room and do the same.

He didn't give us a diagnosis. What he did do was tell us to drive three hours west to Calgary and straight to the emergency department of the Alberta Children's Hospital. In retrospect I think he knew but didn't want to make us overly emotional.

We rushed home, packed her and him for a week and me for a few days as I figured I'd be back at work by Sunday. This would be some sort of virus and he'd just need some help to beat it, I decided.

After a few hours in the emergency room we were informed that Dominic likely had leukemia. I nearly fainted. We both cried. Dom? He smiled and started laughing at us.

He had no idea what it all meant.

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