For my son
It is November 17, 2015. Now exactly one year ago. My wife is by my son, then 14 years of age. A neurologist walks nervously, phone calling, from a control room to another room, returns to the control room, one more confirmation, and then stops by me. A nurse leaves a nearby MRI room and I briefly see my wife standing by my son. The neurologists freezes for a moment, takes a deep breath, and then tells me with a trembling voice the news that my son has had a stroke. He is emotional and gently put his right hand on my left shoulder.
It was some two ours earlier in the living room of our house. My son was just about to go to school. It was raining, really hard, and we told him to get his rain cloths and prepare for his daily 17 kilometer bike ride to school. He was mumbling, almost whispering. I could make up that he wasn’t feeling so well. I told him to get up and make himself ready. As a father you don’t take everything a teenager says too seriously. It was time to leave. He stood up and walked towards me. That wasn’t normal. He was hanging slightly to the left, almost uncontrolled. We told him to sit. He couldn’t sit straight though and raise his left arm. I shocked, saw his face drooped, and then.
He felt of the chair and I could just catch him. He was briefly talking unrecognizably. He was scared, I could see it in his right eye, and wondered what was going on. I was sitting on my knees right of him, asked if he could raise his left arm. My wife sat by him on the other side. I asked if he could smile, it was an uneven smile. We looked to each other and without talking we both understood the seriousness of this situation. We talked to him, asked what he felt, his age. We both had our thoughts and our first assumptions. These assumptions proofed not to be wrong unfortunately. I called the a nearby hospital and carried him to our car. In less then 15 minutes my wife brought him to the hospital. What followed were tests, a CT scan and eventually a MRI for final diagnosis. Our daughter hardly knew what happened. A shock that would unfortunately unfold for her later that day. She went unknowing to school, a deliberate choice at that moment. One I don’t regret, to be honest, but I know it was hard for her coping wi it.
The neurologist, while standing left of me, regains himself. You have to take a decision, a decision with uncertainties. Adults receives trombolysis as soon as possible after a stroke. With children’s the effects are unknown, but the neurologist tells me it is likely the best for him. I can’t consult my wife, she is still by my son. It is life or death, it is about reducing the potential risk of another stroke, but since I already thought he had a stroke I decide to give him the trombolysis. I knew my wife would do the same.
We progressed a year further. My son stayed in a rehabilitation clinic for three months. Learned to walk again, changed school unfortunately, his life got more uncertain, ours too. He gets tired very easily, at the end of the day he sometimes forgets the things said that morning. The doctors never found a cause, but I know that at that time next to the neurologist I, as a father, made an important and rather unwanted milestone decision for him. One I hope it was done for the better.
I have to thank so many people who supported us this last year, especially those close to us. Our parents, my relatives, but mostly my daughter who showed such great strength at her young age. And most importantly my wife who is such a driving force.
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma