Category Archives: Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Good news, bad news

The Good

            Julie came home from the hospital before Christmas.  She still cannot walk, but she can sit up in a chair and she can wiggle her feet.  She will make a full recovery, but the experts have no idea how long that will take.  Her mother is hoping to bring her to school for short periods in January, because the poor child is bored silly.

            I was a bit nervous about bringing Zachary to visit, but he did great, perhaps in part due to the new train set she had.  He just accepted that she couldn’t walk and went on with life.  He actually seems more interested in playing with her nowadays, perhaps because he is bored silly on a four-week winter break.

The Bad

            My experiment giving up sweets for six weeks went swimmingly.  I am the queen of self-discipline, so I had no trouble saying “no” once I set my mind to it.  I was especially curious to see if the extreme mood swings that seem to accompany a certain time each months would be affected by my abstinence from most processed sugar.

            Sadly, they were.  I had a few cranky moments for two days (unfortunately, while my in-laws were here — sorry, guys) and then went a bit nuts for about a day.  Given that – during that time of the month – I am usually a stark, raving lunatic who ought to be locked in Mr. Rochester’s attic for four days, this was a great improvement.

            Why is this such a bad thing?  Well, it means I sort of need to give up sweets permanently unless I want to take hormonal supplements, and I don’t want to take extra medication.  So, I am giving up sweets.  Not completely.  I figure I am safe dipping into the Ben & Jerry’s about once a month.  But, while I would not give up sweets to lose weight or some such nonsense, curbing the beast within is a pretty good motivator.


            Yesterday, Zachary poked my stomach with his hand and, finding it rather squishy, informed me there was a baby in there, which there most certainly is NOT.  So, perhaps giving up sweets just about now is not the worst of ideas.  And, maybe I ought to think about adding cheese to that list…

How about tomorrow I post something light and fluffy?

Business (real post below): The Blogger’s Choice Awards tech people have been hard at work, and they promise me that now any votes for this blog will actually be counted.  That button over on my sidebar delivers you to their site where you can, in theory, now vote for this blog in “The Blogitzer” category for sublime writing that transcends the natural world, or some such.  If you do vote, please stick around to see if your vote actually got counted this time, because, as you may recall, most of your votes were NOT counted the last two times.


           There is a little French girl in Zachary’s class.  Big brown eyes, soft brown curls, the kind of little girl they write fairy tales about.  She is sweet, and she is kind.  She is one of those strikingly beautiful little girls whose loveliness you know the other children do not recognize.  

            Zachary certainly doesn’t.  He likes her well enough, but she is definitely not his first choice of a playmate.  No, he prefers children like Timmy, who periodically denigrate him and make him feel like a lower-level invertebrate.  Julie, who adores him, lights up in a luminous smile every time he enters the room.  She giggles with Benjamin, she shares nicely, and she has nothing but love on offer.  Zahcary?  He’s not buying.

            “I don’t want Julie to kiss me at school,” Zach tells me.  Apparently, it’s OK for her to kiss him at home, just not at school.  I sigh.  This girl’s mother and I have started to become friends, ex-patriots clinging together in a sea of hostile, English, new-money mums.  We live down the street from one another.  We arrange play-dates regularly.  Moreover, Julie is the kind of kid I want Zachary playing with. 

Guess what?  I actually do not get a say in who he decides to be friends with.  It is best I learn this early, I suppose.

            It is up to him who he wants to befriend, which is kind of a shame, because he is showing rather poor judgment.  Of course, choosing vile children to befriend is a rite of passage, and it takes some children years to get wise to the kinds of attributes they should probably be seeking in their playmates.  Hell, if choosing rotten friends had been a major offered at my undergraduate institution, I would have graduated summa cum laude.  This is one lesson he will have to learn on his own.

            While he does not have to be friends with her, he does have to be kind to her.  And, he actually is friends with her – out of school.  In late October, Julie’s mother gave birth to a baby.  So, we invited Julie and her six-year-old sister, Maria, to trick-or-treat with our family.  Two more enchanting little witches have never been seen.  Zach and Julie skipped and held hands as they went door-to-door. 

            Ours is the only house Julie has been to.  The other mothers have not reached out, and her family is operating in a foreign tongue.  In school, the only child she recognizes as a friend, Zachary, never goes out of his way to play with her.  If she were to approach him, he would certainly let her play (or feel the wrath of Irate Mommy when he got home).  But, she never does.  She seems to have accepted herself as an outsider in a cliquey class, and she plays by herself most of the time.  Sometimes, the one other French girl in the class plays with her.

            There is nothing more I can do.  I encourage Zachary to play with her, but I cannot force him.  They play nicely at our house, and he is kind to her at school.  If any of those boys had even the smallest of inklings how desperate they will be for the attentions of a girl just like her in twenty years…

            Two weeks ago, Julie got a bug and missed school play.  After she had been out for a few days, we dropped by.  Sandra, her mother, answered the door.  “Oh, she has been very sick,” she told me.  “But now she is better.  Except she is getting… bumps from eating.  We think it is an allergic.”

            “Hives?” I offer the English word.

            “Yes.  And today she cannot walk.”

            “She can’t walk?  That doesn’t sound good.”

            “We think it is from her medicines.  If she cannot walk tomorrow, we will see the doctor.”  At this point, the boys had burst in, and Julie was beaming on them from the couch.  “Zach.  Benjamin,” she cooed.  Since there were no classmates around, Zach returned the affection, although I thought it prudent that they not go too close.

            I tried to call two days later, but I got no answer.  The answer, when I did get it, was the second-worst thing I could imagine hearing.  She was still not walking.  She was in the hospital; actually, the second hospital, as the first had to transfer her somewhere with a pediatric ICU. 

            I stopped by with food for the family.  Maria, the six-year-old, let me in, excited to see an old friend.  Sandra, holding the newborn, ushered me into the kitchen.  “They think it is Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but they are trying to rule out other things.”

            “What other things?” I demanded.

            Sandra shrugged, either unable to say it in English or unwilling to think it in any language.  Maria had been crying at school, terrified about her sister.  Their father was at the bedside 24/7.  Sandra wanted to be there but had two other children to take care of.  She spent the time Maria was at school in the hospital, leaving Julie only to breastfeed the baby.  All of their support system was in another country.  Sandra looked strung out and exhausted, but she was holding it together.  That is, until she shared one little detail.

            “Yesterday, Julie was singing the songs from the play.”  And that made her start sobbing.  Dude, it almost made me start sobbing, and I only cry on election day.

            Julie does have Guillain-Barre.  She will eventually recover, but it could be months or even years.  Strange how months in a wheelchair and extensive PT suddenly sounds like good news around here.  Sandra’s mother-in-law came into town, and on Thursday she will take Maria back to France for Christmas so that Julie’s parents can focus on the sick child.  And Julie?  She will be spending Christmas in the hospital, although I am happy to report she ate half a yogurt yesterday.

            So, Christmas Day will find Zach and his mother on their way back to the hospital, this time to visit a very sick little girl.  We are Jewish; what else do we have to do on the 25th?  Maybe, since they are outside of school, he’ll give her a little kiss.  I suspect he won’t have to worry about her kissing him in school for quite some time to come.