Fast forward to Spring 2015, a.k.a., the time when everything good happened at once. Branko started more intensive physiotherapy in March, and took his first steps less than three months later. After some positive test results at the hospital, we received the go-ahead to start weaning him off supplemental oxygen. As of this week, he is now completely oxygen-free. Branko received a highly coveted spot in a specialized, therapeutic junior kindergarten program for September. We also recently convinced him to start eating corn.
Even though these are all amazing things, I can’t help but be a bit nervous. We were deep within high-alert panic territory for so long, and now we’re venturing into slightly more relaxed terrain. There are things that don’t come naturally to me anymore. There are other things that outright terrify me.
For example, I have forgotten how to have a regular conversation. Whenever Branko was in the hospital, especially the PICU, my mind would solely be reserved for him. I would memorize his ventilator settings and morphine drip concentrations for no other reason than to feel like a more useful part of his team.
Trying to converse with that perpetual brain fog was very difficult. I never asked anyone else how they were, how their kids were, or where they were planning to summer. It’s not like I didn’t care, it’s just that my mind was mushy. Each time I attempted a regular conversation my mind would clog with worry. Is his oxygen high enough? Is his heart rate too high? Is he dehydrated? Did I label his food in the nasty hospital fridge?
Now that he’s off oxygen and can walk with support, I fear that he’s going to pass for “normal.” I am afraid that people aren’t going to be extra careful with him. I have no desire for people to treat him just like everyone else, because he’s not like everyone else. He has fragile bones and arms that don’t quite work the same as “normal” ones do. He has a high pain tolerance as well, so it’s not always clear when there’s a serious injury.
We can do so many things now that he’s off oxygen – road trips, staying at a hotel, and flying on a plane – and these are the things I need to focus on. For the first time, there’s room in his wagon for his little sister to sit. I can now see his entire tiny face, and spot his boogers from a mile away. We have so many wonderful adventures ahead of us. I just hope I can always remember, even vaguely, how hard things used to be.