Right now I am super stressed due to two situations. One is about my son’s health idiot doctors, and the other is about my trip to America this summer. I’ll start with the second.
My sister is getting married this summer and my extended family is chipping in to help me, Tea, and the baby come to the wedding and meet the family. I emailed TLG to ask if they could make arrangements such that we could all be on the same flights, so that I would pay for Tea’s and Giga’s tickets and TLG would pay for mine. After some back and forth (to make a long story short) the answer was no. Because of TLG’s new policy, yadda yadda yadda, sorry they can’t help me.
Because realistically Tea can’t manage flying alone with the baby on a 20 hour trip with luggage and a connection in Europe, that means I have to pay for my own ticket as well. I discovered this fairly late in the game (Thursday, to be precise) and so I have been scrambling to get an extra thousand dollars together, which means hitting up my family for more money. Now I am just awaiting the news that the Moneygram transfer has gone through, so I can rush to the bank and put the money in my account and rush home and book the tickets.
The reason why I am so stressed about this is because I have heard rumors that airline prices go up as you approach the date of a flight. Right now, I can get a round trip for all three of us for just under two grand – if I’m understanding LOT’s website correctly – as long as we leave by June 14th. (Technically, I’m not supposed to leave Georgia until June 15th, but since TLG isn’t paying for my flight I’m not really sweating that particular detail). So, I’ve been checking the LOT website every day, sometimes multiple times a day, making sure tickets are still available at my price. I just checked again before writing this. Every time I check I get more nervous, and right now my heart is in my throat. I’m not sure exactly what I’m expecting, but if the prices were to go up by, say, $500, I would not be able to afford the tickets and I would be totally screwed.
That being said, I am really looking forward to visiting America, and my friends and family, and showing Tea around NYC. So, fingers crossed.
So babies in Georgia are given a BCG vaccine – which vaccinates against Tuberculosis – at birth, as is the practice in many countries with a high prevalence of TB. Mounting evidence shows that doing this tends to cause an increased risk of something called lymphadenopathy, which is a scary way of saying that my son now has a swollen gland just below his left armpit (the left arm is where the vaccine goes in). This reaction is totally benign and resolves on its own in most cases, and happens to about one in two thousand babies who get the BCG shot (although administering the shot too early and/or with a poor technique increase the risk of the swollen gland reaction).
When Tea first saw the lump, her mind immediately jumped to cancer, and she called me to come and look at it, and I immediately thought it was a swollen gland and probably a benign vaccine reaction (being a perpetually sick person, I have a ton of medical knowledge stored away just waiting for an opportunity like this to be shown off). We agreed that if the lump did not go away in a couple of weeks we’d go to the doctor, even though my research suggests that this condition could very well persist for a year before spontaneously resolving, and the lump didn’t go away so the baby went to the doctor.
The doctors said it was probably a vaccine reaction but wanted to do a chest x-ray to be sure, even though a chest x-ray is not indicated for a small, non-suppurating swollen lymph node in the armpit, because in Georgia it’s totally cool to subject babies to radiation just for the fuck of it. Unsurprisingly, the x-ray did not show anything wrong with my son’s lungs (except that the doctor thinks he probably had bronchitis at some point that we somehow failed to notice, which I guess could be true… I guess…), but the doctors were still not satisfied. The ultrasound scan of the lump was also inconclusive (which means the doctor did not know what to look for) and so we have been advised to take my son to Tbilisi, where he will apparently have to spend two days in the hospital, for some reason, while they do more tests.
Now, at this point it bears mentioning that the recommended course of treatment for a small, non-suppurated swollen gland in the armpit next to a BCG vaccination site is to periodically check to see if it’s gotten any bigger. Not x-rays, not ultrasounds, not antibiotics, not ointments, and not spending three and a half hours hurtling down the highway in a stank smoke-filled death trap to go to where the slightly less incompetent doctors work so they can do a second ultrasound and probably stick the thing full of needles. The baby has no other symptoms of anything else that could cause a single lymph node to swell up a little bit. Oh – well, I guess I should mention that in Georgia everyone thinks that 98.6 is a fever, and 98.78 is a reason to call a doctor, so by Georgian standards he always has a fever. But other than being the same temperature as a normal human anywhere else in the world, he has no other symptoms to report.
I appreciate the doctors erring on the side of caution – I do – which is why I will probably assent to this insane journey to Tbilisi to run another barrage of tests on my perfectly healthy son. I would just appreciate it more if there were doctors in Kutaisi who actually knew what the hell they were doing. I would appreciate it if they did their job by reassuring my wife and her mother – who reacted to the news that we were being referred to Tbilisi like it was a death sentence – instead of scaring them. This feels like the “dysplasia” nonsense all over again.
But at least I know why Georgians always seem to be afraid of their own shadow when it comes to health and medicine. (You’ve never met a Georgian over 30 that doesn’t own a sphygmomanometer and when it’s hot out they go to their neighbor’s to get their blood pressure checked so they can figure out why they feel hot. I wish I was making this up.) If I weren’t me – if I didn’t already have a healthy skepticism of doctors, a weirdly large collection of medical knowledge, and the research skills to get definitive answers to medical questions – I would probably have spent most of my son’s childhood terrified because of these Kutaisi doctors, and spent tons of money on unnecessary treatments, and endangered his health and development by following the terrible, terrible medical advice they give here about how to raise children. Poor health can be a self-fulfilling prophecy here. It’s like the entire country has Münchausen syndrome by proxy.
On the other hand, it is incredibly gratifying to see how shocked every Georgian is by how big, strong, and healthy my son is, because they’ve apparently never seen what it looks like when you let a baby develop normally and naturally. At seven months he’s already “cruising”, which is what they call it when babies walk while holding onto furniture, and his new hobby is cruising around and around the inside of his playpen. I’m a proud dad.
So I guess I shouldn’t worry so much.