Death by a Thousand Cuts

I’ve been trying to count the number of times Cyrus has been in the hospital, or the ER in the past year. The number starts at 4 and goes as high as, I don’t know, 12. This doesn’t include the major surgery he had last August and the three procedures leading up to a perforated esophagus. So, in the past two years, that’s, what…nearly 20 hospital visits. And that doesn’t include regular appointments he has with therapists.

Last week he broke his arm, again, the fourth break since last October. Today he had a follow-up appointment to make sure everything was in place. Hey. Guess what. It wasn’t. So, Cyrus has to get a pin inserted into his radius, the length of it. That means general anesthesia. A new cast for four weeks. And he’ll have to go through it again in a year when the pin is removed.

Alone, this is not a huge deal. Two broken bones is not a huge deal. Three really isn’t either, I guess. Four seems like a bit. But for me, and for Cyrus, of course, these four broken bones are added onto 7 years of procedures and white coats. Of a beginning so traumatic, I’m still recovering.  So is he, though I don’t know if he understands.

And, as always, just when things start to seem okay, when maybe I feel like he’s going to catch up with his peers and not break anything else or finally start eating, something happens. He falls. He gets something stuck in his esophagus. He’s put into more special ed classes because he can’t write really well because he broke his dominant hand twice because no one knows why.

Gaby said tonight that living with Cyrus was like constantly building a house of straw, piece by piece, only to have it blown over with the smallest breath.

I describe his situation as death by a thousand cuts.

I describe my own mental health the same way.

This is where I’ll mention that this is the third time he’s broken his arm at school. And this is the time where I’m finally suspicious. I’ve been fighting with the school and the district for a week to see a copy of his accident reports; I’ll spare you the narrative,  but I’ll say this: no one knows the protocol for getting copies, the person in charge is out because he daughter got married, this woman is a CFO?, I’ll have to file a written request, It won’t be ready in time for the meeting scheduled at school, but hey, I can read over the shoulder of the principal when I get to the meeting, the adult who is supposed to always be by his side was not, somehow some adults wrote the report but I can’t know who they are, his bully might’ve been there when it happened. The school is willing to do anything to help poor, poor Cyrus and why does his bones break so easily (there’s obviously something wrong with him)? You should wrap him in bubble wrap. ha.ha.ha.

All of this has taken a toll on Cyrus. He is either shaking in fear when he sees a white coat, or he is explaining all the steps that will happen, naming all the equipment and acting like it’s no big deal. The last time in the ER when the doctor asked if he knew why he was there he sighed and said, “I broke my arm again,” while continuing to play on the iPad.

My amazing and supportive partner, Gaby, who has lived with him for a little over a year has gone from optimistic and unaffected to crying right along with me when something else happens.

All I want is for Cyrus to be okay, for a whole year. Just a year without anything major would be an improvement.

Last week as I drove Cyrus to school, we were listening to his playlist. O Fortuna was playing and I’m not even lying. He was looking out the window, into the fog and rain, his bright yellow casted arm held with his other hand. Just the night before he’d mentioned that he didn’t have any friends at school, that his teacher is mean, that his bully bothered him again. And here was this kid, his blonde hair a mess, just sitting calmly while I drove him to a place where no one likes him, where he breaks his bones, where he is forced to navigate the world as we all had to. He wasn’t crying or screaming. He just seemed to accept his fate.


There are days when all of Cyrus’s past just rushes over me and I have an anxiety attack. There are days when I’m capable of forgetting everything. Here, let me mix some metaphors: Some of the days you’ve known me, the straw house has just been blown over. Most days you see me, we’re rebuilding, piece by fragile piece. I guess I’m telling you because I need you to understand that if you see me not really functioning, if I can’t show up to the planned event, if I just put on my headphones,  I have reasons. A thousand of them. Or. One. Just one reason.

That should be enough.



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