On Wednesday mid morning, Liberty sat down on the picnic table bench next to me at the park and put her thumb into her mouth. My friend Calle and our four remaining little girls continued the high-pitched shrieks that only the joyfullest of little girls on a beautiful sunshiny day are capable of reaching. (For the record, Calle wasn't shrieking.) I glanced at Liberty beside me on the bench and frowned. "Are you okay, HoneyBunny?" I asked.

She popped her thumb from between her lips just long enough to whisper, "Yet's go home, Mommy, I'm cold."

"You mean, you're hot?" I smiled down at her.

"I'm cold," she whispered and continued staring off into the distance.

Tiny alarm bells sounded in my head, and I decided it might be important to return to our apartment where Liberty could sit out of the sun and have a cool drink. The mid-eighties temperature and non-shaded park underscored my decision. We picked up our sand toys, and Liberty hopped off the bench to help. Then we walked home and gave out juice boxes to each girl. It wasn't until I had served a plate of lunch to the girls that I realized Liberty was missing. With her plate in my hand, I looked around and found her sitting quietly in her rocking chair.

"Lib? Are you ready to come eat?"

She just looked at me.

Calle and I exchanged a something's-not-quite-right glance, and I remembered the park incident. I set the plate down and crossed the room, confirming immediately the presence of a fever. Liberty's underarm temp proved to be 101.8. I gave her Motrin and tucked her into bed.

Six hours later, Liberty quietly walked into the living room, her hair dripping with sweat and impossibly curly. I had checked on her several times throughout her nap and chosen to let sleep do its best to heal. She sat and watched a twenty-five cent garage sale "Tummy-tummies" (Teletubbies) video with her daddy and refused any sustenance.

Thursday morning, both of my girls greeted me with smiles and good mornings when I stepped into their bedroom. I lifted Mercy from her crib and turned towards the kitchen. "Wait! Mommy, help me please. May you please help me please?" Liberty's voice entreated.

I smiled at her politeness and stopped at her bedside. "What do you need?"

"Help me get out of bed."

"Help you get out of bed?" I repeated, unsure of her purpose for asking. "Can't you do it yourself?" I teased.

She quietly but pleasantly said, "No."

I lifted her from her blankets and gently set her feet on the floor. She let out a small whimper and landed on her bottom. Puzzled, I looked down at her. She didn't move from her position and did not look up. "What's going on, Liberty?" I asked.

"Help me please, Mommy."

I placed my hands underneath her armpits and gently raised her to a standing position, but when I began to release her weight onto her feet, she urgently grabbed my shirt and held tightly. The first stab of genuine fear found its way into my heart. After much questioning and experimenting, I realized her legs would not hold her weight. I carried her into the dining room and placed her at the breakfast table. She wasn't hungry and her temperature registered at 102.7.

The rest of the day continued according to the pattern established in the morning, broken into cycles of Motrin and Tylenol doses.

On Friday morning, Liberty struggled to sit up in her bed and asked for help again. Her underarm temp was 103.2. When I placed her into the bathtub and began running water, she cried out in pain, "The water hurts me, Mommy!" She struggled pitifully in the water, unable to move her legs effectively, and my heart broke inside my chest. I looked at my daughter who at least twice each day happily tells me, "Bye, Mommy. I have to RUN!" and then proceeds to run 20 or 30 laps up and down the 100 foot sidewalk in front of our building.

I called the doctor.

When I explained Liberty's symptoms to the nurse who came to the phone and requested an appointment "as soon as possible," she set one up for one thirty that afternoon. Someone from church came to watch Mercy since I knew I would have my hands full carrying Liberty.

At 1:30 PM on Friday, I carried my almost three year old daughter into the doctor's office. She hunched in my arms, very protective of her legs. Her knees were drawn up almost to her chest, and her back arched in a permanently rigid, painful looking posture. Both feet seemed frozen in an overly stretched position. It made me wonder if her feet were cramping into that pose. Looking at her scared me.

Apparently, it scared the family doctor, too. He diagnosed her fever and the spots that had broken out all over her body about ten minutes before we started for his office as just a virus, but her uncomfortable and twisted posture he referred to an orthopedic specialist who "happened" to be in town at 2:00 that day. He called the specialist, and an immediate place on the schedule magically opened for us.

The specialist turned out to be a very nice man. He joked with Liberty and quickly put her at ease. He attempted to massage, squeeze, pull, push, bend and stretch Liberty's little body, but he did it so gently and so comically that Liberty spent most of her time giggling at him and thinking he was tickling her. She only displayed tears when he touched her calves and when he attempted to straighten her legs, and even then she bravely smiled at him through her tears. "I want to be happy, Mommy," she said to me with a smile on her face and a voice tight with tears.

Oh, Liberty, I want you to, too!

The specialist conferred with our family doctor, and they decided to run some tests. Liberty gamely painted imaginary pictures on the examining table with an imaginary paint brush while we waited our way through each test and the arrival of each team of testers.

Strep was eliminated early on, and I was told that polio and rickets were never even considered. (The only ones that I could think of.) Meningitis was on the "short list," but farther down. Blood tests were ordered, and we were sent to a pediatric specialist for a new examination. By this time, we had been at the hospital for six hours, and I was starting to feel thirsty and dizzy. Liberty probably was too. I lifted her once again and attempted not to jostle her painfully cramped body as we left the blood suckers and headed for the pediatrician. Her skin felt hot, and red encircled the skin around her eyes. When we arrived and before I filled out another form, I firmly but nicely requested from the receptionist that Liberty's temperature be taken, a drink be given to both her and me, and if the thermometer confirmed what I suspected then a dose of Tylenol be given to my daughter right away.

A nurse hurried out to us and took Liberty's temperature, bringing with her a glass of water. She ducked out of the room to retrieve some Tylenol and quickly returned with the tiny dosage cup. Slightly relieved, I began again to fill out forms, but was interrupted when a different nurse spotted us in the waiting room. "Are you Dr. _____'s patient?" she asked, naming our family doctor.

I looked up. "Yes."

"I thought so," her eyes indicated Liberty's bent form. "Come in right away; we don't need those papers."

As we passed a group of people in scrubs, I overheard their conversation. They were discussing Liberty's condition and exchanging possibilities. Two people studied files in their hand, and one person stood near a fax machine reading papers as they came through. One person called out, "Did Dr. ________ order a Strep test?" Several papers rustled as the answer was searched for.

"He did," I said as I passed them, carrying Liberty towards the examining room, "It came back negative."

The group hushed, but I did not stop to chat or see their faces. Then I heard someone say, "That's Liberty." By this time, my back was to them and Liberty's face over my shoulder smiled at them. (She only stopped smiling when her blood was taken, and even then, her smile jumped back up when she got a balloon "Bubboon.") Someone made a sympathetic "Mmmm" sound.

We waited in the examining room. Practice makes perfect, you know. We played with her bubboon, and her laughter slowly grew stronger sounding as the Tylenol began working. The newest doctor and her nurse practitioner examined Liberty and commented that she did not seem like a little girl in pain. I sighed inwardly and tried to explain, "She never does. Her pain tolerance frightens me sometimes."

The doctor decided that Liberty was probably fine. She asked us if we would like to wait there another hour or so for the blood work to be finished, or if we would like to return home and wait for a phone call. She explained that there was a possibility that the blood work results would require Liberty to be admitted to the hospital, but we could easily return if that was the case. I voted for going home and eating and having a chance to pack our bags in the case of a hospital stay.

An hour and a half later, the phone call came. Blood work shows a virus that has probably settled in her spine or leg joints causing the severe cramping and pain. The only treatment necessary is Ibuprofen every six hours until the virus runs its course.

Thank you, Jesus! I will get to see Liberty running again.

3 Responses
  1. Debbie F. Says:

    Oh my goodness!!! I was begining to feel your terror while reading this. I will KEEP PRAYING that the Ibuprofen does its job...and quickly. Seeing those pictures at the end almost made me cry. She's one beautiful little girl.

  2. Beth Says:

    Oh my dear Missy. You have me crying like an idiot. I am sooo happy that your precious little girl is ok...I'm so sorry that you all had to go through that! I was so afraid that you were going to tell us that there was something badly wrong.
    I was getting ready to call my husband and tell him to start praying!
    I'm so glad Liberty is ok...
    Hugs to you all!! Beth

  3. Suanna Says:

    I'm praying for you all. How scary. Use your gut instinct and if there still seems to be something wrong take her back to the doctor.

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