You knew it, didn’t you—you have SUPER POWERS! Anybody who has lived the life parenting a child who is medically complex develops some pretty awesome super powers. So, just what are these super powers?
1. You can balance more balls in the air than a trained seal. Have you seen those seals that can juggle with their noses? They are pretty cool, but we are even cooler, because we juggle way more interesting stuff like children, medications, therapy appointments, doctor’s visits, home nursing care, wheelchairs, and medical procedures. We are also pretty good at juggling balls of fire, including insurance companies, special ed programs, and all the other agencies we have to fight on a daily basis.
2. You know more than doctors. We have to hide this super power a lot, but when it comes to our own children, we know more about them personally than any doctor on the planet. After just a year or so, we typically catch up to the level of medical students. After ten years, we know more than most of the attendings, at least when it comes to our own kid’s issues. When the resident starts explaining why a kid hasn’t pooped in a week, we pop out words like peristalsis, colonic manometry, and duodenal stricture. Of course, the most important part of this super power is the ability to allow doctors to think they know more than we do, while secretly holding onto the truth.
3. You can handle bodily fluids better than a CSI team. This is perhaps our best super power. We can look at poop and diagnose digestive diseases. We can look at coughed-up secretions and not only diagnose an infection, but tell you which one. We can take a sniff of pee and tell you exactly what is growing in it and how much. And we can do all of this without even a bit of nausea or gagging! Not only that, but we are extremely adept at catching flying vomit—often midsentence, without missing a beat. Now that is talent!
4. You have more fight in you than Mike Tyson. Fortunately, we don’t bite off ears, but if you cause any problems with our kids, expect us to fight you, calmly, rationally, and maybe even exuberantly, until you run away with your tail between your legs begging for mercy. We are the prototypical Mother Bear and Papa Bear. We don’t back down. We fight until we get insurance to cover that thrice-denied medical supply, school to give our kid a 1:1 aide, the state to give us home nursing care, and the doctor to order the right tests our kids need. We ALWAYS win!
5. You are better at research and surveillance than the NSA. When it comes to our kids, we should all be promoted to official Intelligence Officers, because we know EVERYTHING. And if we don’t know it yet, we will spend hours Googling, looking up articles on Pubmed, photographing and videoing strange symptoms, discussing medications and therapies, and even running our own scientific studies, just to make life a little better for our kids. Not only that, we have an uncanny ability to spout out our child’s entire medical history on command. My child’s last 10 hemoglobin levels? No problem! Would you also like them graphed to illustrate recent trends?
6. You don’t actually need to sleep, and when you do sleep, you can sleep anywhere. Who needs sleep? Special Needs Parents have perfected the art of living on little or no sleep. No nurse for three nights in a row? No problem. We can do it! And when we finally do get to sleep, we are so exhausted that we can sleep anywhere. Those three “boxes” the hospital considers a pull-out chair? Slept like a baby!
7. You are always the one helping out everybody else. We are all undeniably super busy. But when a fellow Special Needs Parent needs help, guess who comes running? It certainly isn’t Average Susie, who is overwhelmed just taking her kids to and from school. And it isn’t Spoiled Samantha, who only got six hours sleep and is too tired to function. Nope, it is your fellow Special Needs Parent who has been up for two days straight and still happily comes to help you when your basement floods. Special Needs Parents are the most understanding and helpful people you will ever find.
8. You are the greatest superhero to ever live. To your child, you have the most important super power of all—you are their EVERYTHING. You take care of your child every day, hour after hour, often with little appreciation from the outside world. But to your child, you are perfection. You provide him with everything he could want or need. You fight furiously to make things better. You see the value in her life. You see the amazement in everything she does. And, most importantly, you give your child overflowing love. In your child’s eyes, you are the greatest super hero who has ever lived.