Reagan turned 13 yesterday. It's hard to believe it's been two years since he invited his fifth grade class to his party. We divided them into groups and they each made their own movie.
At the time he turned 11 he had been diagnosed with an unexplained hearing loss. A conductive hearing loss. I had just taken him for a skin biopsy on a rash that appeared on his elbow. He was showing heightened anxiety at school. Knowing all that I know now I would think about water damage and air testing. But I accepted the mystery and thought nothing more about it.
A month after his 11th birthday we uncovered the mold. And our nightmare began.
Reagan's journey is particularly difficult. It began with a phone call from school on September 11th. Four months after the exposure. "My ear is ringing," he said. Three weeks later he begged to come home from school because the ringing was severe. The ringing took over his life until November 1st. That was the day the vertigo took over. Within 3 days he was vomiting all night. Soon he lost his ability to walk. We agreed to several surgeries hoping to end the unrelenting vertigo.
By Christmas it was clear our strategy had failed. He was walking again but perpetually dizzy. Reagan's question went from "will I be better by Christmas?" to "will I ever get better?" An agonizing question for a mother when she doesn't know how to answer.
He played video games to get through. At 2:00 a.m. I would hold him in a certain way. Stroke his head in just the right spot. Enough for him to finally fall asleep. Gradually I learned to sleep a couple of hours before he needed me. I hated to leave him alone. Even for a minute. But other children were sick. And I needed the strength.
On the morning of February 29th (it was leap year last year) he woke me up at 2:00 a.m. Just like always. He told me he was thinking of writing himself a letter.
"What would it say?" I asked him.
He spoke quietly. I almost missed it.
This had to happen to somebody. And you're the best one for it."
Yesterday was his golden birthday. He's much taller than he was. His voice has changed.
And he is wise beyond his years.
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