by Ethan M., Age 15 , Grade 10, Amery High School, Amery, WI USA
Teacher: Mrs. Coleman
Growing up; my brother was no different from any other kids of his age. One morning, we went in for our regular physicals and checkups. He was only nine months old then, and I was only three or four. My exam had finished and I was proud as I had taken a shot and didn’t even flinch. It was now my brother’s turn. He had weighed and measured accurately for his age. Everything seemed healthy. When the doctor listened to his heart, there was something that concerned him. He first looked confused, then mumbled something to the nurse. She quickly exited the room looking mildly concerned. The doctor then listened to his heart again, and again a few more times. When the nurse returned, she had a mound of paperwork and information. I had no idea what was going on. The doctor told us that was all that he needed, and that we would be good to go. After my brother and I exited, he closed the door, and told my mom that he needed to speak with her for simply a minute. At my age, I didn’t find this suspicious or odd in the slightest. I ran along excited at the clinic as I normally would. Little did I know, there was something very wrong with my brother. The doctor spoke very slowly and very sternly.
“I don’t want to scare you, but there may be a murmur in your son's heart beat,” he said.
Confused, my mom answered, “What does that mean?”
In a sense, he didn’t know what was wrong with him, but he knew there was something off with his heart beat. He had the nurse give my mom the information to study, along with contact information to cardiologists at Children’s hospital in St. Paul. At the time, I wasn’t even told about this scenario, but even if I was, it would have been unlikely that I could comprehend and understand what I was being told.
Two years had gone by; my brother is now two. When we arrived at children’s, the first thing I noticed was the smell of the food court that was on the main floor when you entered. There was a Chinese restaurant and an ice cream shop right next to that. When we walked by it, my brother requested getting some ice cream. With guilt, my parents gave in and bought him ice cream. As we made our way up, all I could smell was the sweet sticky sent of the not so frozen strawberry ice cream. Everything in the hospital was so fancy, and so big. It was almost a scary atmosphere to be in because it was so big. When we got off the elevator, we entered into a big room. Here there were doctors making their way around and receptionist taking phone calls left and right. We made our way up to the desk and told them our name and information.
Once we were signed in, it was only a few minutes before the receptionist called us back to meet with the doctor assigned to our case. He noticed Aaron’s ice cream and asked what his favorite flavor was. It was nice to see the doctors connect with the patients on a more personal level.
Once Aaron finished eating, he was asked to clean up a little, where he had to change into shorts and go shirtless. He laid in the hard, uncomfortable, medical bed as the doctors listened to his heart. They were reluctant that our doctor had heard the murmur, because most doctors would have missed it. After they were done listening to his heart, they hooked him up to an EKG machine which would hopefully diagnose what was causing this murmur. As they attached all the sticky wires up to him, he requested that his picture was taken because he found it rather amusing. He couldn’t help himself from laughing every time that he got touched because of how ticklish he was.
Once the EKG was over, my brother and I were asked if we wanted to play in the provided area for kids while they talked with our parents. As they spoke, they told us that my brother had a hole in his heart. This currently wasn’t causing any issues, but in time this could have been very dangerous. There were two options for the procedure to close the hole. There were two main options to solve this issue. The first was Coronary artery bypass. This surgery avoided a big scar, and like all, had some risks. The other option was open heart surgery, which left a scar, and also had its own risks. Our parents decided that with risks included, open heart surgery would be the best option for him. In six months, my younger brother was scheduled for his surgery in attempt to close the hole in his heart.
Not long after my brothers third birthday, he was on his way to the hospital to be prepped for the surgery. At the time I didn’t exactly understand what was going on. All I understood is that my mom would be staying at the hospital with my grandparents and my brother while my dad and I had the house to ourselves that week.
As the week went on I missed having him around and asked if we could go visit. Sure enough, my dad took us. This time when we arrived there was no smell of food, instead a ripe smell of hand sanitizer and other cleaners. I still smell whenever I enter a hospital to this day. As we made our way through the maze, I saw a pair of parents giving their child a ride in a bright, berry red wagon around the halls. This was a heartwarming sight that would stick in the back of my mind. As soon I walked into my brothers assigned room; I was greeted hearing my brothers high pitched voice yelling,
“Ethan!!!! I missed you soooooo much!” I asked how he’d been doing. He was having quite the experience. He was being treated very well. He ate ice cream at least twice a day and loved watching the cartoons that were on T.V. I didn’t realize how much I had missed seeing him while I was gone. It was a nice greeting to see my mom again as well, and unexpectedly my grandparents were still there. His surgery was scheduled for tomorrow, so we wished him the best luck, said our “love yous.”
Before we knew it, we had made our way back to the house. That night, the house was quieter than ever. All I could think about was Aaron and when he would be home so things could go back to the way that they used to be.
The next day I went to school, as I would any other day, and when I got home, my mom was there too. She was there to tell us that the surgery had gone great, with no complication. He was currently at the hospital, and still asleep and my grandparents were there keeping an eye on him. At my age, I didn’t realize that anything could have gone wrong. I now realize that the survival rate for heart surgery ranged from 84-98 percent depending on conditions. There was a 15 percent chance that something terribly bad could have happened.
After a few days, when he was strong enough to move around a bit, my dad and I went in to visit him. Once again, all I could smell was the not so fresh scent of hand sanitizer and cleaner; and I saw a couple giving a young child a ride in a wagon. When I arrived in the room, there was no loud greeting this time. We had gotten there after he fell asleep. My parents and grandparents had a good talk that lasted a long time while I watched T.V. As I was sitting on the couch, I felt a tap on the arm, and a familiar voice say,
“Hi Ethan” I’d never been so happy to see him before, and to this day, it makes me a little more appreciative whenever we can spend that ever so precious time together. He told us that he felt fine and that he wanted to go do something. The first thing I could think of was the red wagon that I saw the people using. I made my way towards the front desk where they handed them out. With little to no trouble, I was able to get a wagon and bring it back to his room. When he saw it his eyes lit up. He carefully made his way into the wagon looking around at everything that we went by. He was having a ball of a time. I felt like the best big brother of all time. We were both enjoying ourselves greeting doctors as we went on. Most of the doctor’s referred to him as Mr. Maytag. I’m not exactly sure where that came from though.
To this day I will still see pictures of me giving my brother a ride around in the wagon with his ice cream. When I asked him where he wanted to go, where else would he reply than to go get some strawberry ice cream.