Not for nothing

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” 

Oh, how true, how true! 

As a Type A gal, this is one of the most challenging parts of parenting for me: Here’s this amazing little guy who I love so dearly, and I can’t and shouldn’t protect him (the very heart of me and of his father) from every little thing. 

But when my son is sick, watch out, as my Mama Bear Worry kicks into high gear. Stomachaches in the middle of the night, a bronchitis-esque cough or even a sudden sad mood all send me into a whirlwind of concern. And not for nothing. 

When my son was 1, he had a serious unexplained sepsis infection in his ankle. Thanks to his dad, who knew right away something was up, he survived after a same-day surgery and five nights in the hospital. 

It seems almost like nothing now, but this month’s magazine, our annual Health Issue, reminded me just how hard it is to parent in a world that sometimes seems so full of illness, dangers and violence. 

But there are some things we can control. We can stay informed (and keep calm). In the spirit of staying informed, please check out the feature on the little-known mental health condition known as PANDAS. It’s a long piece. But it’s important. 

It tells the story of three local families whose children received this relatively new diagnosis, but not before enduring immense anguish and endless uncertainty.

All three families, feeling abandoned by the medical establishment, were forced to strike out on their own to stop their children’s suffering — suffering apparently caused by strep throat (an incredibly common bacterial infection) gone horribly wrong. They’ve told us their stories, not to inspire sympathy, but to prevent other families from experiencing the grief they’ve endured. 

We’re not trying to scare you or even make you fear strep throat. As common as it is, that’s not a good idea. 

But if your child experiences sudden and severe mental health problems following a case of strep throat or other infection, this autoimmune condition (which can be called PANDAS or PANS) could be the cause. And you need to know about it. 

It also might not be the cause. And the treatments might not “fix” your kid.

But when it comes to your heart walking around outside your body — and when that heart is plagued by fits and fears and is unable to go to school — looking at all the options seems like the best idea to me.