So there you have it, I might say, brushing my hands against one another in a cleansing effect. Only the journey had just begun. Max lived for three long months in intensive care at Children’s, where he underwentseveral surgeries, the longest of which lasted seven hours. When that surgery was over, one of Max’s nurseswrapped her arm around me and walked me to the warming table in intensive care, where two nurses andtwo doctors were working. I felt so bad for them, awful really, because I was certain they had messed up andput the wrong baby on the table. In front of me was something horribly swollen and ventilated, three timesthe size of the baby I handed them that morning. I might have laughed and told them they had it all wrong,
except our exhausted pediatric surgeon was directing trafc. And hovering nearby was our favorite neona
-tologist—the same doctor who used to put caffeine into the deep line in Max’s scalp just to perk up his brainsand remind him to breath.Throughout Max’s babyhood, especially during hospitalizations, I counted numbers. I monitored my son’sIns and Outs, documented every cubic centimeter spent and the volume of emesis emitted. It was an obses-
sion really, all those facts and gures: By the time he turned 2, Max had spent a total of 24 hours under
generalanesthesia. He recently had his 15th surgical procedure and is soon to turn 15. All those numbers throughoutthe years, they kept me thinking, which prevented me from feeling, because there was that fear, that awfulnagging fear. It was never back in the corner where another team was taking care of it. The fear hovered overand haunted me, even when my funny and frighteningly smart baby began to hit his milestones and moveabove that 10th percentile.So there you have it, I might say again, except for the myriad emergencies that pummeled us for four moreyears. On the darkest days, it seemed like we might never wipe our hands with insouciance and move on.And then one day, from the chaos and pain, there emerged an amazing child, then a brilliant boy, and now agood young man.
I look at Max and marvel at his accepting nature. If anyone has a reason to raise his sts to the world, it is my
son. Yet he painted and played and studied dinosaurs and when he got old enough, he pushed his own IV poleinto the operating room while I followed behind, joking about the pizza I was having delivered.“You would never know to look at him,” people now say, not noticing that I clutch my hands at themention of those early years. Most of the scars are hidden under Max’s clothes. He can’t close one of hishands completely from the cerebral palsy, yet that position is perfect for playing the tenor sax, which Maxdoes, in a mean way—only he scoffs when I say that. He thinks Parker plays too fast to accompany on CD,but Miles is manageable. I squint and nod and think I understand. Just last fall, Max played at Yoshi’s, the
venerable Oakland nightclub. During his rst big solo my friend squeezed my hand the entire time, probably
to remind me to breathe.I am better able to exhale now and appreciate that Max’s life has turned out so beautiful. I am in awe of how
much he knows and the fact that he loves third-year Latin, 3-D art and Dickens; the fact that Max nds trig
intriguing and physics a hoot and his history teacher says he could be taking college-level courses. How do Iexplain his brilliance? Was it the caffeine in his scalp or the betamethazone in my butt?Or maybe it was the time we spent cultivating relationships with all of his doctors and nurses. We told Max
they were good men and women who helped us. So he was never afraid. Of anyone. Kids ocked around
him. His play dates were endless. His dance card is now often full, even though I don’t get to hear the girls’names. I just hope that whomever he chooses to dance with into his adulthood loves him enough to allow meto stop worrying.