March 31, 2009

Vital Organs

Yesterday, Cameron turned six months old. Our sweet little guy has come a long way since his birth, but still has a ways to go.

As some of you know but many of you don't, I contracted Fifth Disease (Parvovirus B19) while I was pregnant and passed the virus onto Cameron in utero. The virus attacked Cameron's bone marrow, effectively shutting it down and preventing his body from making red blood cells. Needless to say, without a sufficient supply of blood, the body cannot properly grow and develop.

While the outcome of the pregnancy was uncertain, my husband and I had reason to hope: when a fetus's blood supply is compromised, the body instinctively compensates by sending blood first to the vital organs: namely, the heart, lungs, and brain. Anything left over goes to the other organs and the arms and legs.

Cameron survived the pregnancy because his body made this sacrifice. The choice to feed some organs more than others, however, did not come without consequences: Cameron was born at 35 weeks (one month early), yet was only 15 1/2 inches long; his abdomen was filled with fluid, he couldn't breathe on his own, and he was in heart failure.

Yet he survived.

I marvel at the body's commitment to self-preservation in the face of such obstacles. I am inspired by the body's focused gaze: keeping its priorities straight is instinctual. Unfortunately, this perspective of life does not come to me as naturally. My son's illness has reminded me of a simple truth that I too often forget: namely, that there are things in this life that I can live without, and things that I can't. Cameron has brought me many blessings, but perhaps the most important is the physical reminder to feed and nourish what is vital to my life (family, faith, and friends) before things that are nonessential.

My son's struggles have taught me that one can live with shorter than normal arms and legs, an enlarged liver and spleen, an underdeveloped GI tract, poor muscle tone, and yesterday's gift: a small brain bleed. We can all survive--and even thrive--with these things. Yet even the best of us cannot live a single day without our vital organs, and all that they symbolically represent.

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