My bright, curious, kind-hearted, thirteen-year-old whose personality was erased by stroke-like symptoms the Thursday before Christmas. Tanner was dazed. No coordination of his facial muscles. Unable to communicate or write. Lost. The only piece I could sense of my Tanner was a fleeting fear in his eyes as I gripped his hand. After an ambulance ride to Boston’s Children’s Hospital and four hours of urgent care from neurologists, my Tanner returned. Ultimately, he was diagnosed with an odd, complex migraine that presented with stroke-like symptoms. For his first migraine, it was a doozy. Now he can talk, laugh, and joke again, and I have time to contemplate an urgent question that each ER nurse, attending, and neurologist fervently asked me: Had he been exposed to a new household cleaner?
At the time, baffled thoughts bombarded my mind simultaneously:
~Are you kidding me? Don’t you know what I stand for? (Didn’t say this one aloud.)
~NO! Of course not! (I also didn’t say this one aloud, but my mind hyper-played out all the products I had changed.)
Knowing short answers were expected (from Grey’s Anatomy, of course), I replied, “No, not in the home, but I don’t know if he was exposed to something elsewhere.”
A few hours later, in the quiet of our hospital room and to the hum and rhythm of the IV drip machine, I counted my blessings. Among them was relief for the knowledge I have collected and gratefulness for my journey of changing out products in my home, and pride that I share my journey in Little Changes. I mentally thanked the delightful working relationship I have with Women’s Voices for the Earth. A small smile-hmmph escaped as I remembered their report released in December spelling out some of the all-too-familiar products and nasty unneeded chemicals still being used. In the article, Dirty Secrets: What is Hiding in Your Cleaning Products, WVE spells out chemicals of concern found in common products from Clorox, SC Johnson, and Proctor and Gamble. As I reflected, a rare, simmering anger started to bubble inside me:
Cleaning products harm people often enough to condition and train these angels of medical workers to go straight to this topic? Why is this the first go-to question for them? When I spout off about how ingredients can “cause harm,” I didn’t know that my son’s symptoms were an example of what it looked like in real life. Cleaning ingredients can do THIS to a child?
I know why I do what I do, and I know that chemicals cause harm, but a near-real life example still felt like a sucker punch. The cute ambulance driver didn’t question, “Was your son exposed to a disinfectant powerful enough to clean up a crime scene?” The nurse didn’t ask with a calm, matter-of-fact tone, “Did Tanner stumble onto a military base and into any top-secret concoctions?” They point blank asked, “Was he exposed to a new household cleaner?”
My anger stemmed from the fact that WE. HAVE. CHOICES. We can choose wiser products for our family and our children. The problem is, many people don’t know what’s in the products they are using. They don’t know how those silent ingredients are affecting their family’s health. They don’t know they could, and should, make a wiser choice.
As we push through follow up appointments with Tanner, the lessons I learned have ultimately formed my New Year’s Resolution.
I will do everything I can to educate the Everyday-Me’s and make a difference.
I thought 2012 was going to be all about celebrating February’s launch of Little Changes. (And part of it still will be!) But 2012 will also be the year that Choose Wiser becomes a go-to resource for curious women. We will celebrate people making changes, we will break down what you can do now, how to do it, and what to use. It will be a year of Growth, Nurturing, and Celebration. For us, and hopefully, for you too. The time has come!
Now, please take a look at the above mentioned report. Share this with two friends today. Then pause and smile knowing what Very-Scary-Mommy-Moment you may just have prevented.
“As I read the book, I identified with many of the topics you discussed—trying to change, feeling overwhelmed by change….and really understanding how I am making a difference with my own family while taking into account the bigger picture.” ~Comments from a book club focus group during the development of Little Changes
Enjoy your Journey,
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Disclaimer: For legal purposes, let me just say that we don’t know what caused Tanner’s episode; be it migraines or some other underlying cause we haven’t yet uncovered. I am also not claiming that household cleaners do or do not cause migraines. I am simply recording my story and experiences with my son and the medical staff.