Jon is afraid of spiders. (As it turns out, he’s apparently also afraid of the zombies in Call of Duty: Black Ops, but I don’t think video game character phobias extend beyond power down, so we’ll stick with spiders.) Jon protects our fair county from the big bad guys on a daily basis, but I hold the title of regent protector from the terror of eight-legged intruders. On one occasion, Jon and I left for work but were stopped dead in our tracks by a silver dollar sized spider. She eyed us with all her eight eyes, staring us down. I sighed and turned to look for a towel or 2×4 that I could use in my offensive attack. I didn’t feel like getting cobwebs in my hair. But when I turned to assign him his assistant’s task, he was no where to be found. “Guess I’m not going to work today!” I had to prove my spider ops resulted in arachnid fatalities before he’d venture forth to face human-size villains.
I used to be terrified of needles. My quest for muppets forced me to face that fear head on. Blood tests, self-injections (which I never could get up the nerve to do on my own), more blood tests, IVs, blood tests resulting in the diagnosis that I was anemic (so stop taking my blood already) and shots. I knew I’d conquered aichmophobia when a lab technician burst into my hospital room a day before the muppets arrived and I merely rolled over, extending my arm, without departing the dream I was enjoying.
Yesterday, Destroy and I trooped back to the hospital for a followup with his pediatrician. As a matter of protocol, they immediately checked his PulseOx, blood pressure and temperature. I realized my phobia has morphed into something far more mundane. I am terrified of the monitor. Every muppet medical adventure involves the moment where my little guy is strapped in and the screen illuminates, scrambling green numbers in mocking fashion. The monitor taunts me with threats of incapacitation and incarceration.
When I first met the monitor, it was a harmless picture of my blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation. But then it became an integral part of the muppets daily lives. I watched the hell out of those monitors in the NICU – trying to bend their fluctuating numbers to my will. I was helpless to stop their pronouncements of desaturations when the muppets suffered an apnea attack. There was no off button that would calm a bradycardia episode. As we approached graduation, our nurses turned the monitors away. They cautioned we’d need to learn to care for our boys by watching their cues; they warned it would be hard. It was the first time I started to feel relief.
I know the muppets are big strong boys now – today we ventured forth on our first escapade in new big boy car seats. But when the babes are sick, it’s not the doctors opinion that scares me, it’s the first moment when they strap the monitor onto a little foot that sets my own heart racing and oxygen levels plummeting (good thing they don’t also check the parents).
Destroy is recovering from his cold. The doctor observed, “He’s totally fine.” (We’ll continue to use the albuterol until the wheezing is totally gone, but he continues to experience “zero respiratory distress.) Yet, I found myself freaking out about the 97 the medical assistant had written on his saturation chart. The monitor was wrong, I insisted. The doctor waved me away – anything above a 96 is fine, it might not have been a perfect read.
I hate the monitor. It’s all I can do to force myself to keep breathing while I watch the results flicker out. How ironic that it’s something so literal reminding me to take a deep breath.