Heroes come in different shapes, sizes and skin-tight costumes. There are the quiet, hardworking, unsung varieties, like foster parents who take in kids with special needs. There are the ones who swoop in with courage, strength, skill and testosterone (some orthopods perhaps?) before galloping off on their gallant white steeds (or roar away in red Porsches). And then there are the superheroes. With or without figure-hugging Lycra, these revered individuals use magical powers to save the day, and no mere mortal, even the most devoted of GPs, can compete. This is the true story of when a superhero used magic to triumph over medicine….
“It’s just not the same. I’ve had four babies and I know what pregnancy is supposed to feel like.”
She had multiple complaints.
“I’m just so tired. My back hurts. My belly is too big. My ankles are swollen. I’m still nauseous and I’m really constipated.”
Her doctors weren’t short of answers.
“You’re anaemic which is making you tired and besides, you’re an older mum with four young kids – it’s natural to have a tougher pregnancy. The baby’s heart is strong; he or she is going to be perfectly healthy.”
She was. I could attest to that. The ‘baby’, Caroline, was sitting here in front of me some 39 years later with nothing more than an appendectomy and a shellfish allergy in her medical history.
“I know this pregnancy will kill me, just like it did my mother. I can’t go through with it.”
She was eight weeks pregnant. She and her husband had always wanted three kids but after two, nature wasn’t particularly obliging. They kept practising, however, and after three years it seemed a case of practice making perfect. Except it wasn’t perfect. Caroline was beside herself with worry.
“My mother was the same age as me. Exactly. To the month. It’s a terrible omen.”
“It’s just a coincidence.” I tried to reassure without promising the unpromisable.
“It’s far more than that. Mum’s been coming to me in my dreams. Warning me.”
“It’s perfectly understandable that you’re dreaming about your mother but it doesn’t mean she’s contacting you from beyond the grave.”
“Don’t you believe that such a thing is possible?”
“What I believe isn’t the issue. What’s important is that you’re frightened and we need to address these fears.”
Having your mother die of metastatic bowel cancer months after you were born is damaging enough. Add to that the guilt from having been told that your existence not only led to a delayed diagnosis but probably sped up the cancer’s spread, and it’s no surprise that you have deep-seated issues.
I tried my best to help Caroline see things rationally. We spoke about the advances in testing since her Mum’s time. I explained that with a recent normal colonscopy and no symptoms, her current risk of cancer was very low. I reminded her that with her history, at 39, she was unlikely to have another chance for a third baby. I sent her for bloods and imaging, talked to her with her husband, offered referrals… everything I could think of. All to no avail.
And then Caroline met a superhero: a psychic/clairvoyant called Clara.
Clara confirmed that Caroline’s mother had indeed contacted her from “the other side”, but reported that the message had become garbled. Conveniently, for an extra fee, Clara was able to communicate directly with the deceased and straighten everything out. According to Clara, Caroline’s mother said this baby was a special gift and “infused” with her spirit. Clara then used her magic to affirm that both Caroline and her baby girl would be fine.
Caroline was instantly reassured and spent the remainder of her uneventful pregnancy in a state of relaxed contentment. The healthy baby girl (lucky guess of Clara’s?) was given her maternal grandmother’s Christian name and the middle name Clara, after Caroline’s “hero”.
I’m actually very grateful to Clara for her help, and I always give praise when praise is due; however I must admit to being a trifle miffed that an hour of expensive mumbo-jumbo scored a spot in the name line-up over my five years’ dedicated medical care of Caroline. Is this petty of me? The only thing any patient has ever named after me is a pet cow. But then, I’m no superhero.