A while back I had Billy into the local clinic for a sports physical. The doctor scanned his chart, did some quick work with his stethoscope, and said, “How long has it been since he has seen the heart specialist?”
“A few years,” I said. “They told me it was nothing to worry about.”
“You should take him again,” he advised. “Just as a precaution. I can hear it pretty strong.”
Billy has two separate heart murmurs. No big deal, they say. Lots of people have heart murmurs.
“It won’t affect him now, at 17, because he’s young. But when he is thirty or forty, it’s going to slow him down,” the doctor warned.
See, there is a valve that doesn’t quite work right in the left side of his heart. When the blood is supposed to pump down, into the body, a good portion of it goes in reverse and squirts back up into the top of his heart. This lack of circulation makes him have to rise from a seating position a little more slowly than others…or he blacks out. He’s been known to fall down stairs…hit the floor as he rises from the couch…and face plant in the snow after a long car ride.
His hands and feet go dead when they get cold…turn completely white. Like this page. And they hurt. Once when he was about twelve, while playing outside, he lost circulation to his head without knowing it. When he came back into the house and stood near the woodstove, the blood came back with a rush…as near as we can tell…and for forty-five minutes…he screamed. He clutched my arm and screamed, “Mom…help me…” for forty-five long minutes. An ambulance ride later the pain subsided.
Other than that the heart condition has not really been an issue. He’s always been cleared to play sports. And he sometimes tires easily…but he pushes through it because that’s who he is.
The frustrating part is…all of this is caused by a birth mother who chose to drink alcohol and use methamphetamine drugs while she was pregnant.
Most of my children’s lives are forever affected by some form of substance abuse. Their brains…damaged. Their bodies, ill-formed. Their quality of life, their futures, their potential in this world, permanently changed because of a birth mother who made bad choices…who delegated these children’s paths, forever, out of her own selfishness… before they were even born.
It won’t affect him now…they say…and yet it does. At three. At seventeen. At thirty. Every single day.
We look at each other across the doctor’s office and our eyes meet. Billy kind of smiles slightly and shakes his head. I return the look, knowing that we are once again thinking the same thing about his “mom”…as we have many times before.
Something all of my adopted kids have thought at one time or another. When she calls drunk. When she never calls at all. When she lies. When she makes excuses. When she doesn’t come to see them. When she disappears from their lives as if they never existed. When she drank…or smoked…or shot up and destroyed their chances at “normal”…when she walked away.
Damn her, we’re thinking. Damn her for breaking his heart.