Tuesday, November 8, 2011

11.08.11 What happened?

Every once in a while I have to remind myself that not everyone knows or remembers the reasons why Maxwell is the way he is... well, besides his stubborn streak, (definitely his father's gift), and his winsome good looks, (most definitely his mother's contribution), but rather his atypical journey through life with the  most challenging chapters ahead.

Maxwell was born as a well-baby after what seemed an uneventful pregnancy, the second of what would be three children. The pleasant breezes of contentment and hope that blow in the wake of a baby's birth lasted only a few precious hours before the hurricane arrived and swept away everything that I recognized. Maxwell was diagnosed with congenital CMV. CMV is short for cytomegalovirus, and while I had never heard of it nor had my ObGyn warned me about it, I have since learned that it is the most common cause of birth defects and childhood disabilities in the USA. Max had sustained brain injuries that left him profoundly deaf, blind, developmentally delayed and with cerebral palsy. To say that this research-crazy, hyper-responsible, well-informed mom was stunned is an understatement. I felt like I had been hit by a bus. Why hadn't I known about this and how did it happen?

Max in the moments before his symptoms became clear.
Well, turns out that lots of people know about this nasty virus, they just don't happen to be the ones taking care of pregnant women. To make a long story short, I likely contracted the virus early in my pregnancy with Max, ( I remember being ill for about three days in my 11th week, for which my Dr. at the time prescribed a sinus decongestant), and I contracted it from someone I love. CMV is passed from mother to unborn child, especially but not exclusively if the mom has never been exposed to the virus before. You catch CMV through the transfer of bodily fluids like urine and saliva....and what mom doesn't change a diaper and occasionally forget to wash her hands or share her toddler's food in an effort to get her to eat? Toddlers in day-care are quite prone to this and other viral infections. Their immune systems being fully intact, unlike a growing fetus, are able to fight off the offending viral invaders with no lasting effects.

In all fairness to the ObGyns out there, CMV is unfortunately not on the list of things to test newborns for after birth. Children that are infected with the virus and suffer disabilites such as deafness, microcephaly, seizures, and cerebral palsy are not identified until the mom is out of the care of the OB. It is the pediatricians that get the case when the children fail to meet milestones and then have to work backwards to the cause, which at that point is hard to identify, as CMV is difficult to pinpoint after the body's immune system has a chance to "catch-up"...however the damage has already been done.

So, that ravaged landscape that I was staring at after Max was born, the one that was my future, my happiness, my family, and my expectations, my son...it turns out that not everything was swept away like I had thought, but it had certainly been rearranged and like a collage that you never glue down, it continues to shift over time. Perhaps it is because I never liked to glue down my collages anyway that I see the color and light in all those aspects of life again. It is too easy to imagine that the grass is really greener on the other side. We've all been there and it never is...!

In the meantime, I do harbor a smoldering fire for what feels like revenge, (if you can feel this way about a germ), when it comes to this virus called CMV. It is very preventable. If you are reading this and you know a woman that is thinking of becoming pregnant or newly pregnant, inform her...get the facts...and WASH YOUR HANDS! Visit the website: stopcmv.org and kep another child from the statistics sheet. STOP CMV!

No comments:

Post a Comment