“You’re a vet,” Hubs announces as we’re sitting on the sofa the other night.
“What?” I’m confused.
“You’re a vet. Vets get an animal in and it can’t tell them where to look or what pain or discomfort feels like. They have to follow their instincts and prod around gently until they work out what’s wrong.”
He’s right. I am a vet.
Beloved Aspie does not communicate pain or bodily discomforts well, if at all. Added to which he has a high pain threshold which means by the time he is ‘indicating’ that something might be wrong – it’s really wrong.
Take his ears. Early one January morning he came and sat on the floor in front of me and said simply, “I can’t move my head.” He looked quite grey, with dark shadows under his eyes. Immediately panicking about meningitis, I called the hospital and in we went. I don’t know how the doctors worked it out that day, but he had a cholesteatoma, a growth that was dissolving the bone around it, eating the ear bones and burning into the mastoid. They told me it must be agony for him and why hadn’t I acted when he hurt. Because I had no idea. He hadn’t said one word. (Five operations later, he is now profoundly deaf).
It set us off on a huge journey to understand and communicate pain. But a learning curve is just that…
Then there was the hernia. One night, he said he had tummy ache. Well that’s progress. I had a feel of his tummy and it was a bit swollen, so I told him to go to bed and stretch gently to give it space to relax. Ten minutes later he was puking violently in the bathroom while I quizzed the nurse on NHS Direct phone line. This is the boy who hadn’t vomited since he was a toddler.
At A&E, Beloved Aspie calmly explains to the doctor how he has had this lump that he has just been ‘popping back in’ until this week when he couldn’t. How long it had been going on, I don’t know. He hadn’t said a word. Luckily surgery was straightforward, if you ignore the bit where the anaesthetist had to hide under the bed to sneak up on him with the needle as he’s phobic.
And they’re just two of the stories.
So, on the ‘vet’ night, we were gathering to watch X Files and he sweeps in, a tornado of frustration, loudly berating why these ‘bodily malfunctions’ have to happen.
Me? Total red alert.
Because there is a further issue these days: privacy. He’s a young man. He no longer wishes to discuss ‘bodily malfunctions’ with anyone -especially not me. It’s quite a predicament: I don’t want to overstep boundaries and oblige him to share stuff he doesn’t want to. But at the same time, I don’t want to wait for something manageable to become a crisis. As ever, I’m between a rock and a hard place.
I decide to leave us all to sleep on it. Let the frustrations and panic evaporate into the cold light of day. And I bring it up briefly in the car as I drive him home from work. He says he doesn’t need to talk about it.
So, I’m going to respect his privacy and accept that as ‘I’m fine’ and hope to goodness I’m not a rubbish vet.