I was 9 years old when my youngest brother was diagnosed with myocarditis. He was 5 at the time and had very vague symptoms. He refused to eat anything, he didn’t engage much with anyone at the time, and his overall behaviour was different. One day, when my parents took myself and my two brothers for a routine check-up with our paediatrician, she noticed that my younger brother’s skin colour was different. She urgently told my parents to rush to the emergency department without any delay.
He was admitted to Sick Kids hospital immediately and stayed admitted for about 2 weeks. Those 2 weeks were the worst 2 weeks for my parents. We were taken care of by our relatives while they spent most of their days and nights at the hospital. As a kid, my older brother and I didn’t know much about what was going on, and our parents didn’t share much of it with us either.
To me and my older brother, the hospital was beautiful. There was a hot dog stand right in front of the hospital, a wishing fountain at the entrance, and playrooms on every floor and unit. During each trip to the hospital to visit my brother, we would have hot dogs that our dad bought us, we’d throw a coin in the fountain to make a wish, and spend hours in the playroom.
My younger brother, on the other hand, was constantly being monitored, undergoing a number of tests and taking numerous medications every day. Luckily, he was one of the rare kids who didn’t need a heart transplant and was managed well with medications. Upon his discharge, a nurse made regular, bi-weekly, visits at home to monitor my brother’s health. He was also prescribed medications for a number of years until he was completely cleared of any further check-ups when he was 16 years of age.
Upon reflection, I can appreciate how difficult it must have been for my parents and how scared they must have been to think about the thought of losing one of their kids. Although it has been years since this happened, everyone is very protective of my little brother and even now, my parents refuse to tell us the whole story of what had happened at the time to avoid the feelings from coming back.
One thing I’ve learned from this is that it is really important to be aware of any subtle changes in the way a child behaves that is different from normal. Often, children may not be able to express what’s going on but may exhibit signs of irritability or failure to feed. These signs should be an alarm bell signalling that maybe something is up. In such cases, it is better to be safe and to get a check-up at a clinic or hospital instead of delaying medical attention. Sometimes, it may be more serious than what meets the eye.