Many around the world are covetous of the United States’ Thanksgiving Day tradition. I’m writing this on the fourth Thursday in November, when Americans at home and abroad gather to enjoy a celebratory meal followed by a long weekend. They’re giving thanks for a number of particular reasons, flowing from the founding of their nation as marked by the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth Rock late in 1620, these settlers’ first harvest a year later, and the breaking of a serious drought in 1623. The original thanksgiving occasions took the form of grateful Christian worship meetings rather than a high-calorie meal!
The Netherlands is my country of origin and Australia my adopted country: sadly, neither has anything like Thanksgiving… nor do many other countries (other than Canada) to my knowledge.
In this post I would like to register some of my thanks at a personal level and in regard to my writing these posts, which are a modest part of the centenary of infant pyloric stenosis (“PS”) surgery. I regard God (as I’ve come to know God through Jesus Christ) as the ultimate maker and giver of everything that is good, and so I honour and thank God –
- For the gift of life which most of us today in the developed world take for granted, but which my PS scar keeps reminding me is always a tenuous gift.
- That PS is so readily treatable by a course of medication or by surgery. Although I have hated my scar and still have mixed feelings about it (as I do about my other personal inadequacies and battlefields), I have come to realise that without prompt surgery I might not be writing this today. And of all the abdominal conditions of infancy, PS is not only by far the most common, but also the one that is the most easily corrected and with the least “collateral damage”.
- For my parents who, even though as people of their time they were ill-equipped to help me understand and “own” the trauma and pain my PS surgery caused me, nevertheless suffered much and loved me through what was for them too a horrendous experience.
More generally, I am grateful for strong women who can become assertive and even pushy mums. The web is littered with stories of mothers who stood their ground when they are put down by a condescending doctor who belittled their prior experience of PS, their parental research, and their motherly instinct that something was seriously wrong with their baby.
- For the hospital staff who nursed me during those first weeks of life in such a way that despite the rough-and-ready way infant surgery that was done at the time, I wasn’t added to the medical morbidity (complications) and mortality statistics. (The psychological/ emotional after-effects were another story, but unknown at the time.)
- That medical science, researchers and writers have during the past 100 years added unimaginably much to our understanding and skills in treating life-threatening and life-affecting medical conditions. Whether it’s the risk factors of a relatively obvious abnormality like PS or the mapping of the brain or genes, we are far from in control, but we do feel increasingly empowered.
More generally again, I give special thanks for doctors with good diagnostic skills which allow PS babies to start treatment before they are near death, to surgeons who know their stuff and have a deep respect for their tiny patient’s emotional and cosmetic well-being, and to parents, pediatric specialists and hospital sections with the courage and kindness to advise and try medical treatment of PS rather than letting the surgeon set the agneda.
- That support communities and forum interaction are so common and easily formed and developed today! As one who was deeply affected at the personal level by my PS experience, I know what it was like to live in isolation from information, explanations and others with the same nagging questions and deep aches.
- That my two years of weekly posting at this address has met with such a strong and positive response. Although comments have been fairly infrequent apart from those of my faithful co-blogger, they have been invariably positive, appreciative, and in harmony with my passion here. Often they have been a complete surprise and most heartening. And the number of visits far, far outnumbers the comments.
- For the fact that none of my children and grandkids have developed PS. Infant PS is known to result from any of several factors, and it seems more likely that my stressed out mother was involved in my first problem than my genetic code.
- Generally again, I thank God that in the developed countries at least, babies today rarely die of PS. Until some 50 years ago, there were some terrible mortality rates due to delayed diagnosis, the unavailability of suitable treatment, and surgical and post-operative complications. Times have certainly changed!