I sit helplessly at the side of my daughter’s bed, all torn up inside, powerless and at my wits’ end. What to do? What needs to be done? Nothing seems to stack up. My daughter has been lying in bed for days with running a fever of almost 41°C. She looks so tiny in her struggle. She bravely tries to remain cheeky and cool. Her eyes give her away: horror, confusion, fear. The doctors treating her have just informed us they suspect it is myocarditis – an inflammation of her heart muscle. A shock that we will need a long time to recover from, as I well know from my own experience of what the diagnosis can mean.
My daughter had just got back from an ecological protect-the-turtles project in Brazil. On the back of a festering tonsilitis she had suddenly started running a fever, every day, incessantly, for a whole week. No antibiotic worked. The fever could only be allayed for brief periods by antipyretics and leg compresses. The fever could only be lowered emphatically in hospital through the administering of cortisone in high doses.
How I admired my daughter, battling bravely against the bursts of fever with the frightening shakes and sweats, toughing it out each time, sometimes four or five times a day. Her suffering and my own helplessness were enough to make me cry. As her father, I found it hard if not impossible to uphold the necessary distance a doctor should have. The doctors we had sought out, and above all the marvelous team of nurses and care-workers at Berlin’s Virchow Clinic, took over treating her – and they showed such empathy, were so conscientious, and successful.
The team managed to bring the nascent myocardia to a halt, the illness was healed, and my daughter duly discharged. What an incredible feeling of happiness; my soul was doing somersaults. There are hardly words to describe the feeling. Well, I could as a doctor, but definitely cannot as a father. A massive load was taken off my mind. After all, I had lost my beloved brother at the tender age of 44 to a severe illness and had witnessed first-hand how my mother and father both imploded, as it were, how they simply collapsed, no longer to be saved. No consolation, no encouragement helped, and they both slowly disappeared into silence. It is really tragic when children pass away while their parents are still alive. How merciful when that is avoided. It makes me blissfully happy!
© Dietrich Grönemeyer 2021-08-27