I signed in and we went to sit in the "healthy-kid" section of the waiting room. There was one other little boy there, a few years older than Jude, and he was playing quietly at the block table. I set Jude down so he could explore but he stayed right by my leg and just watched, turning his car over and over in his hands. He was unusually timid so I just let him chill out. I filled out his milestone questionnaire. I let him color all over it with the pen. We waited.
Half an hour later the nurse came to fetch us. We have the same nurse every time and she's a lot of fun I guess, as far as nurses go. She always remembers the Jude and talks to him. She got him to stand on the big scale to be weighed.
"You want to walk down to your room Jude? Come on!" and instead of running crazily away in every direction like normal he followed carefully along behind her and trotted right into our exam room. He looked very big and serious.
He was still a little off his game so she had him sit on my lap instead of up on the table. She took his measurements and told us the doctor would be in shortly.
"Should I go ahead and get him undressed?"
"No, why don't you wait until the doctor comes in? I don't want him to get cold."
And so we waited. We talked about all the farm animals painted on the walls. We paced. I carried and bounced and did the mom-sway and tried to put the little dude at-ease which was probably a lost cause.
Finally the doctor came in to get things started. He asked a few questions about his last visit in December. Apparently they hadn't filled out our immunization chart so he ducked out to go help the nurse get it up to date and sent in... his intern.
Oh, the poor kid. I could smell the fear pouring off him a mile away. He clearly did not have much patient experience yet. The only way to get better is to practice but really... on us? He came up to Jude with some weird thing, toy? with a giraffe head and tried to get acquainted. Timid Jude was not game for that bullshit. Much crying ensued. The intern backed up in a panic and sat down and started looking through Jude's chart, page by page.
"So, is he crawling?"
"Um.... yes. He can walk. Run even." Things only went downhill from there.
Intern attempted several other tests which were also met by crying from my terrified child and each time the guy would jump back like I was holding a live snake. He kept checking what I assume is a "child physical" instruction cheat sheet from his pocket. Finally he gave up on doing any tests and went back to the paperwork.
"So, I see he was tested for anemia and lead in December."
"Ok the results here say... um... ok anemia was good. I think." flipping pages, flipping pages, "and the lead... it says 'F'. That's uh, good. Yes very good. Ok."*
And then we sat in awkward silence for twenty minutes. I tried to coax Jude out of his shell by talking about the farm animals again but he wasn't buying it. Finally I got his attention with the clip on our travel diaper kit and he entertained himself with trying to snap and un-snap the clasp. He'd put it in, smile, take it out, try again. I was torn between trying to help intern guy not be a complete failure and ignoring him and focusing on my obviously upset child. The kid won.
After what felt like an eternity our ancient doctor finally came back. He checked Jude's ears eyes and nose, listened to his heart and lungs, and checked his teeth, though he never had me undress him which I found very strange. Finally he got back to the paperwork.
"So, he's due for a few shots today."
"And, oh, ok, here are his test results from December. He's not anemic, which is good. His platelets were high but that's nothing to be worried about."
"His lead test," scans results. Re-scans results. "It's not on here. Let me go print it out from the computer."
And we wait. Again. Jude hasn't left my side, which is completely unlike him. I wonder to myself if he's finally hit the age of stranger-fear but he's never had much of a problem with it before.
"Ooooookay here we are." he strides back in.
"He failed his lead test. You see the normal level is here," [pointing] "and his level is three times that. If it gets to four times that he has to go to the hospital. He can have seizures and die."
What exactly do you say to that? My mind was racing. Failed the lead test. Failed the lead test. Failed the lead test. IN DECEMBER, THREE MONTHS AGO. What exactly does this mean? Hospital?! WTF?!
"We're going to have the Health Department come to your house."
[Insert blind panic here]
And then he walked out. I waited in silence, close to tears. What the hell is going on? I called Jon. I relayed the pathetic amount of information I had been given. The nurse opened the door and I snapped the phone down with a promise to call as soon as we were done.
Shots. Only a few. He cried but calmed back down soon after. The nurse left me our paperwork and said we were free to go.
"Wait– what? Is he going to come in and talk to me more about the lead... thing? I need more information."
"I'll go get him." He had not been planning to come back in.
When he came back in with pen-in-hand I was a little bit more on my game.
"So you got these results in December. And never notified us. Correct?"**
And then he went through some bullshit spiel about not eating paint and not digging in the dirt outside our house. The rest of the conversation went a little like this:
"You need to vacuum between the floor boards."
"I vacuum with a hepa-filter vacuum twice a week."
"Mulch 8" around the sides of the house so he doesn't play in the dirt there."
"We don't have any dirt around the sides of the house. We have a deck. And concrete."
And then I walked out. And I hope that's the last time we ever set foot in that fucking office again. Commence the freaking out.
So, where does this leave us? Something, somewhere, mostly likely in our house is contaminated with lead, and it is poisoning us. Is it a defective toy? The water? The paint on the outside of the house? Invisible dust that we can't see? The dirt at the playground? If Jude has high levels it is safe to assume that both Jon and I and the dogs also have unsafe levels. Jokes about Bang's mental capacity? Not really jokes anymore. She has lead poisoning. It has made her retarded.
I will discuss all this in detail but there are two main points here- 1. Our doctor is FIRED. As FIRED AS FIRED AS FIRED AS FIRED. We could have been fixing this two months ago. That's two more months of completely uncontrolled exposure that is 100% on THEM. It is negligent at best that they did not even look at our test results until our scheduled appointment.
Point 2.– This is... serious? I don't want to make it seem overly serious, life and death serious, it's not. We don't need to flee the house, nothing like that. But... yes, serious? Despite our doctor's somewhat DRAMATIC rhetoric his level is high enough that they want to watch it, solve it, fix it, but not at a you're-going-to-die kind of level.
Serious enough, however, that we have been assigned a Lead Case Worker by the Health Department, which is like a social worker for lead. Our case worker will help us schedule testing for our whole house (next week), additional testing for Jude (and possibly us), and make sure that whatever the source is gets correctly FIXED as soon as possible. They've also given us management techniques to help us cope until the testing is finished.
I have one request– I want to share this entire story with you. We live in a old house but we have no peeling paint, have repainted every surface with safe paint, all the things they tell you to do to be extra careful. But there's a lot we don't know still, some things we do. We've bought home lead tests and haven't been able to find anything ourselves.
My heart, guys, my heart. I'm scared. It hurts to go home to a house that is PERFECTLY CLEAN and know that something inside is probably poisoning you. Something you can't find and that soap and water can't fix. Everything looks the same, feels the same. It feels like home. It doesn't FEEL dangerous.
I'm frustrated and angry with how this was handled, scared for Jude, and even guilty. Guilty that maybe I didn't do something right, even though I know that we did everything possible. But mostly just scared, and helpless. There isn't a quick fix for this, it's a long process.
I have twenty new gray hairs. My heart hurts.
*this. this is not "good"
** STAB STAB STAB STAB STAB STAB STAB