This morning I slunk into work feeling reluctant to be there. The weekend had been busy and draining, and I felt more like a long nap than being pleasant to anyone. However, I'm a great believer in 'fake it until you make it', so I greeted my co-workers cheerily and got on with the day. And in the end, it was a pretty good day after all.
One of my cutest little patients, 'Mikey', came for a check-up today. Mikey is a blond, curly-haired toddler with a cheeky grin and a way with women. Don't tell me he's too young to have a way with women...today this kid put a hand up to gently cup my chin as I checked his ear! Mikey is just an adorable kid. He is also, to me, the embodiment of the concept of hope. Whenever I think of miracles, whenever I think of how sometimes, wonderful things happen in the face of dire predictions - Mikey is who I most often think of.
I have known Mikey's mother for several years. I was responsible for her antenatal care during her pregnancy with Mikey. Mikey was a much-planned-for baby, and his mother, 'Kay', was so looking forward to his birth. I was also eager to meet this baby, who I had poked and prodded many times in his mother's belly. So when Kay came for a postnatal appointment, looking exhausted and sad, I wondered what on earth was wrong. The flaxen-haired baby, swaddled up in a blanket, was chubby. When he opened his eyes, he fixed his gaze on my face. He reacted to noise; blinked in the light. He looked perfect.
Kay wearily related the story of Mikey's birth. It had been a difficult labour, and towards the end, Mikey had shown signs of distress. After an emergency Caesarian delivery, Mikey was born with reduced responsiveness, and promptly proceeded to have a series of seizures. Mikey was now on anti-epileptic medication, and his parents had been told he would have brain damage. The extent of his disability remained to be determined, the paediatricians said, but it was almost certain that there would be both intellectual and physical delays.
Kay told me she felt such despair. No-one had been anything but negative about Mikey's outlook. Yet mixed with her fear was a tiny flicker of hope. Like me, Kay saw in Mikey a healthy-looking baby boy. Like me, Kay noticed his reactions were appropriate. Like me, Kay wanted to believe that the doctors might be wrong about Mikey.
I spoke to Kay, choosing my words carefully. I didn't want to mislead Kay by being unrealistic, yet I wanted to have a different attitude to the hospital doctors. I suggested that Kay and her husband be prepared for possible problems, but not to expect them as a certainty. We spoke about dealing with problems IF and WHEN they arose. I really had no idea what would happen with Mikey, but I did know that everyone needs hope.
Today, Mikey is an outgoing, sturdy, talkative little boy who will be two this month. He gets into every drawer and cupboard in my consulting room. He walks to me and puts his arms up to be picked up (so he can attack all the fascinating objects on my desk!). Today I pointed out a bus going past outside, after which Mikey remarked brightly, "All gone now!". This is the 'disabled child' that Mikey's parents were warned about. He is a little ray of sunshine, come into the world. He brightens up all our days. He brightened mine today, yet again.