Week 5 Discussion: A young child’s serious illness
Week 5 Discussion: A young child’s serious illness
Discussion Question: Due Monday by 5pm
For this week’s discussion, please read, “People Like That Are the Only People Here” found in your textbook on page 466. Week 5 Discussion: A young child’s serious illness.
This short story explores a young child’s serious illness. The frightening and highly emotional situation provides a glimpse into the helplessness parents face when serious medical issues surface. In a response of 250 or more words, discuss the healthcare professional’s role in communicating a sense of hope to parents.
Tip: PLEASE Consider where in the story a technician, nurse, physician, etc. provided or failed to provide assurance.
Include a short quote from the text to support your insights. (Remember to create in-text citations in APA format and include a reference at the end of the post.)
Reading for this discussion is attached.
Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. PEOPLE LIKE THAT ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE HERE: CANONICAL BABBLING IN PEED ONK lorrie moore A beginning, an end: there seems to be neither. The whole thing is like a cloud that just lands and everywhere inside it is full of rain. A start: the Mother finds a blood clot in the Baby’s diaper. What is the story? Who put this here? It is big and bright, with a broken khaki-colored vein in it. Over the week-end, the baby had looked listless and spacey, clayey and grim. But today he looks fine—so what is this thing, startling against the white diaper, like a tiny mouse heart packed in snow? Perhaps it belongs to someone else. Perhaps it is something menstrual, something belonging to the Mother or to the Baby-sitter, something the Baby has found in a wastebasket and for his own demented baby reasons stowed away here. (Babies: they’re crazy! What can you do?) In her mind, the Mother takes this away from his body and attaches it to someone else’s. There. Doesn’t that make more sense? ***** Still, she phones the clinic at the children’s hospital. “Blood in the diaper,” she says, and sounding alarmed and perplexed, the woman on the other end says, “Come in now.” Such pleasingly instant service! Just say “blood.” Just say “diaper.” Look what you get! In the examination room, pediatrician, nurse, head resident—all seem less alarmed and perplexed than simply perplexed. At first, stupidly, the Mother is calmed by this. But soon, besides peering and saying “Hmmmm,” the pediatrician, nurse, and head resident are all drawing their mouths in, bluish and tight—morning glories sensing From Birds of America by Lorrie Moore. © Copyright 1998 by Lorrie Moore. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. Week 5 Discussion: A young child’s serious illness
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:48 PM via HERZING UNIVERSITY – MADISON AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. people li k e t h at | l o r r i e m o o r e 467 noon. They fold their arms across their white-coated chests, unfold them again and jot things down. They order an ultrasound. Bladder and kidneys. “Here’s the card. Go downstairs; turn left.” ***** In Radiology, the Baby stands anxiously on the table, naked against the Mother as she holds him still against her legs and waist, the Radiologist’s cold scanning disc moving about the Baby’s back. The Baby whimpers, looks up at the Mother. Let’s get out of here, his eyes beg. Pick me up! The Radiologist stops, freezes one of the many swirls of oceanic gray, and clicks repeatedly, a single moment within the long, cavernous weather map that is the Baby’s insides. “Are you finding something?” asks the Mother. Last year, her uncle Larry had had a kidney removed for something that turned out to be benign. These imaging machines! They are like dogs, or metal detectors: they find everything, but don’t know what they’ve found. That’s where the surgeons come in. They’re like the owners of the dogs. “Give me that,” they say to the dog. “What the heck is that?” “The surgeon will speak to you,” says the Radiologist. “Are you finding something?” “The surgeon will speak to you,” the Radiologist says again. “There seems to be something there, but the surgeon will talk to you about it.” “My uncle once had something on his kidney,” says the Mother. “So they removed the kidney and it turned out the something was benign.” The Radiologist smiles a broad, ominous smile. “That’s always the way it is,” he says. “You don’t know exactly what it is until it’s in the bucket.” “‘In the bucket,’” the mother repeats. The Radiologist’s grin grows scarily wider—is that even possible? “That’s doctor talk,” he says. “It’s very appealing,” says the Mother. “It’s a very appealing way to talk.” Swirls of bile and blood, mustard and maroon in a pail, the colors of an African flag or some exuberant salad bar: in the bucket—she imagines it all. “The Surgeon will see you soon,” he says again. He tousles the Baby’s ringletty hair. “Cute kid,” he says. ***** “Let’s see now,” says the Surgeon in one of his examining rooms. He has stepped in, then stepped out, then come back in again. He has crisp, frowning features, sharp bones, and a tennis-in-Bermuda tan. He crosses his blue-cottoned legs. He is wearing clogs. The mother knows her own face is a big white dumpling of worry. She is still wearing her long, dark parka, holding the Baby, who has pulled the hood up over her head because he always thinks it’s funny to do that. Though on certain windy mornings she would like to think she could look vaguely romantic like this, like
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:48 PM via HERZING UNIVERSITY – MADISON AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. 468 I m a g i n e Wh at It ’ s L ik e some French Lieutenant’s Woman of the Prairie, in all of her saner moments she knows she doesn’t. Ever. She knows she looks ridiculous—like one of those animals made out of twisted party balloons. She lowers the hood and slips one arm out of the sleeve. The Baby wants to get up and play with the light switch. He fidgets, fusses, and points. “He’s big on lights these days,” explains the Mother. “That’s okay,” says the Surgeon, nodding toward the light switch. “Let him play with it.” The Mother goes and stands by it, and the Baby begins turning the lights off and on, off and on. “What we have here is a Wilms’ tumor,” says the Surgeon, suddenly plunged into darkness. He says “tumor” as if it were the most normal thing in the world. “Wilms’?” repeats the Mother. The room is quickly on fire again with light, then wiped dark again. Among the three of them here, there is a long silence, as if it were suddenly the middle of the night. “Is that apostrophe s or s apostrophe?” the Mother says finally. She is a writer and a teacher. Spelling can be important—perhaps even at a time like this, though she has never before been at a time like this, so there are barbarisms she could easily commit and not know. The lights come on: the world is doused and exposed. “S apostrophe,” says the Surgeon. “I think.” The lights go back out, but the Surgeon continues speaking in the dark. “A malignant tumor on the left kidney.” Wait a minute. Hold on here. The Baby is only a baby, fed on organic applesauce and soy milk—a little prince!—and he was standing so close to her during the ultrasound. How could he have this terrible thing? It must have been her kidney. A fifties kidney. A DDT kidney. The Mother clears her throat. “Is it possible it was my kidney on the scan? I mean, I’ve never heard of a baby with a tumor, and, frankly, I was standing very close.” She would make the blood hers, the tumor hers; it would all be some treacherous, farcical mistake. “No, that’s not possible,” says the Surgeon. The light goes back on. “It’s not?” says the Mother. Wait until it’s in the bucket, she thinks. Don’t be so sure. Do we have to wait until it’s in the bucket to find out a mistake has been made? “We will start with a radical nephrectomy,” says the Surgeon, instantly thrown into darkness again. His voice comes from nowhere and everywhere at once. “And then we’ll begin with chemotherapy after that. These tumors usually respond very well to chemo.” “I’ve never heard of a baby having chemo,” the Mother says. Baby and Chemo, she thinks: they should never even appear in the same sentence together, let alone the same life. In her other life, her life before this day, she had been a believer in alternative medicine. Chemotherapy? Unthinkable. Now, suddenly, alternative medicine seems the wacko maiden aunt to the Nice Big Daddy of Conventional Treatment. How quickly the old girl faints and gives way, leaves one just standing there. Chemo? Of course: chemo! Why by all means: chemo. Absolutely! Chemo! Week 5 Discussion: A young child’s serious illness
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:48 PM via HERZING UNIVERSITY – MADISON AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. people li k e t h at | l o r r i e m o o r e 469 The Baby flicks the switch back on, and the walls reappear, big wedges of light checkered with small framed watercolors of the local lake. The Mother has begun to cry: all of life has led her here, to this moment. After this, there is no more life. There is something else, something stumbling and unlivable, something mechanical, something for robots, but not life. Life has been taken and broken, quickly, like a stick. The room goes dark again so that the Mother can cry more freely. How can a baby’s body be stolen so fast? How much can one heaven-sent and unsuspecting child endure? Why has he not been spared this inconceivable fate? Perhaps, she thinks, she is being punished: too many baby-sitters too early on. (Come to Mommy! Come to Mommy-Baby-sitter!” she used to say. But it was a joke!) Her life, perhaps, bore too openly the marks and wigs of deepest drag. Her unmotherly thoughts had all been noted: the panicky hope that his nap would last longer than it did; her occasional desire to kiss him passionately on the mouth (to make out with her baby!); her ongoing complaints about the very vocabulary of motherhood, how it degraded the speaker (“Is this a poopie onesie! Yes, it’s a very poopie onesie!”). She had, moreover, on three occasions used the formula bottles as flower vases. She twice let the Baby’s ears get fudgy with wax. A few afternoons last month, at snacktime, she placed a bowl of Cheerios on the floor for him to eat, like a dog. She let him play with the Dust-buster. Just once, before he was born, she said, “Healthy? I just want the kid to be rich.” A joke, for God’s sake! After he was born she announced that her life had become a daily sequence of mind-wrecking chores, the same ones over and over again, like a novel by Mrs. Camus. Another joke, those jokes will kill you! She had told too often, and with too much enjoyment, the story of how the Baby had said “Hi” to his high chair, waved at the lake waves, shouted “Goody-goody-goody” in what seemed to be a Russian accent, pointed at his eyes and said “Ice.” And all that nonsensical baby talk: wasn’t it a stitch? “Canonical babbling,” the language experts called it. He recounted whole stories in it—totally made up, she could tell. He embroidered; he fished; he exaggerated. What a card! To friends, she spoke of his eating habits (carrots yes, tuna no). She mentioned, too much, his sidesplitting giggle. Did she have to be so boring? Did she have no consideration for others, for the intellectual demands and courtesies of human society? Would she not even attempt to be more interesting? It was a crime against the human mind not even to try. Now her baby, for all these reasons—lack of motherly gratitude, motherly judgment, motherly proportion—will be taken away. The room is fluorescently ablaze again. The Mother digs around in her parka pocket and comes up with a Kleenex. It is old and thin, like a mashed flower saved from a dance; she dabs it at her eyes and nose. “The Baby won’t suffer as much as you,” says the Surgeon. And who can contradict? Not the Baby, who in his Slavic Betty Boop voice can say only mama, dada, cheese, ice, bye-bye, outside, boogie-boogie, goody-goody, eddyeddy, and car. (Who is Eddy? They have no idea.) This will not suffice to express his
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:48 PM via HERZING UNIVERSITY – MADISON AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. 470 I m a g i n e Wh at It ’ s L ik e mortal suffering. Who can say what babies do with their agony and shock? Not they themselves. (Baby talk: isn’t it a stitch?) They put it all no place anyone can really see. They are like a different race, a different species: They seem not to experience pain the way we do. Yeah, that’s it: their nervous systems are not as fully formed, and they just don’t experience pain the way we do. A tune to keep one humming through the war. “You’ll get through it,” the Surgeon says. “How?” asks the Mother. “How does one get through it?” “You just put your head down and go,” says the Surgeon. He picks up his file folder. He is a skilled manual laborer. The tricky emotional stuff is not to his liking. The babies. The babies! What can be said to console the parents about the babies? “I’ll phone the oncologist on duty to let him know,” he says, and leaves the room. “Come here, sweetie,” the Mother says to the Baby, who has toddled off toward a gum wrapper on the floor. “We’ve got to put your jacket on.” She picks him up and he reaches for the light switch again. Light, dark. Peekaboo: where’s baby? Where did baby go? ***** At home, she leaves a message—“Urgent! Call me!”—for the Husband on his voice mail. Then she takes the Baby upstairs for his nap, rocks him in the rocker. The Baby waves good-bye to his little bears, then looks toward the window and says, “Bye-bye, outside.” He has, lately, the habit of waving good-bye to everything, and now it seems as if he senses an imminent departure, and it breaks her heart to hear him. Byebye! She sings low and monotonously, like a small appliance, which is how he likes it. He is drowsy, dozy, drifting off. He has grown so much in the last year, he hardly fits in her lap anymore; his limbs dangle off like a pieta. His head rolls slightly inside the crook of her arm. She can feel him falling backward into sleep, his mouth round and open like the sweetest of poppies. All the lullabies in the world, all the melodies threaded through with maternal melancholy now become for her—abandoned as a mother can be by working men and napping babies—the songs of hard, hard grief. Sitting there, bowed and bobbing, the Mother feels the entirety of her love as worry and heartbreak. A quick and irrevocable alchemy: there is no longer one unworried scrap left for happiness. “If you go,” she keens low into his soapy neck, into the ranunculus coil of his ear, “we are going with you. We are nothing without you. Without you, we are a heap of rocks. We are gravel and mold. Without you, we are two stumps, with nothing any longer in our hearts. Wherever this takes you, we are following. We will be there. Don’t be scared. We are going, too. That is that.” ***** “Take Notes,” says the Husband, after coming straight home from work, midafternoon, hearing the news, and saying all the words out loud—surgery, metastasis, dialysis, transplant—then collapsing in a chair in tears. “Take notes. We are going to need the money.” Week 5 Discussion: A young child’s serious illness
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:48 PM via HERZING UNIVERSITY – MADISON AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. people li k e t h at | l o r r i e m o o r e 471 “Good God,” cries the Mother. Everything inside her suddenly begins to cower and shrink, a thinning of bones. Perhaps this is a soldier’s readiness, but it has the whiff of death and defeat. It feels like a heart attack, a failure of will and courage, a power failure: a failure of everything. Her face, when she glimpses it in a mirror, is cold and bloated with shock, her eyes scarlet and shrunk. She has already started to wear sunglasses indoors, like a celebrity widow. From where will her own strength come? From some philosophy? From some frigid little philosophy? She is neither stalwart nor realistic and has trouble with basic concepts, such as the one that says events move in one direction only and do not jump up, turn around, and take themselves back. The Husband begins too many of his sentences with “What if.” He is trying to piece everything together like a train wreck. He is trying to get the train to town. “We’ll just take all the steps, move through all the stages. We’ll go where we have to go. We’ll hunt; we’ll find; we’ll pay what we have to pay. What if we can’t pay?” “Sounds like shopping.” “I cannot believe this is happening to our little boy,” he says, and starts to sob again. “Why didn’t it happen to one of us? It’s so unfair. Just last week, my doctor declared me in perfect health; the prostate of a twenty-year old, the heart of a ten-year-old, the brain of an insect—or whatever it was he said. What a nightmare this is.” What words can be uttered? You turn just slightly and there it is: the death of your child. It is part symbol, part devil, and in your blind spot all along, until, if you are unlucky, it is completely upon you. Then it is a fierce little country abducting you; it holds you squarely inside itself like a cellar room—the best boundaries of you are the boundaries of it. Are there windows? Sometimes aren’t there windows? ***** The Mother is not a shopper. She hates to shop, is generally bad at it, though she does like a good sale. She cannot stroll meaningfully through anger, denial, grief, and acceptance. She goes straight to bargaining and stays there. How much? she calls out to the ceiling, to some makeshift construction of holiness she has desperately, though not uncreatively, assembled in her mind and prayed to; a doubter, never before given to prayer, she must now reap what she has not sown; she must assemble from scratch an entire altar of worship and begging. She tries for noble abstractions, nothing too anthropomorphic, just some Higher Morality, though if this particular Highness looks something like the manager at Marshall Field’s, sucking a Frango mint, so be it. Amen. Just tell me what you want, requests the Mother. And how do you want it? More charitable acts? A billion starting now. Charitable thoughts? Harder, but of course! Of course! I’ll do the cooking, honey; I’ll pay the rent. Just tell me. Excuse me? Well, if not to you, to whom do I speak? Hello? To whom do I have to speak around here? A higher-up? A superior? Wait? I can wait. I’ve got all day. I’ve got the whole damn day. The Husband now lies next to her in bed, sighing. “Poor little guy could survive all this, only to be killed in a car crash at the age of sixteen,” he says. EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:48 PM via HERZING UNIVERSITY – MADISON AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Rut … Week 5 Discussion: A young child’s serious illness