Emotionally draining. Happy ending.

I don’t even know where to begin, but to say that last week was one of the most draining that I’ve experienced. I felt like I was a rubber ball thrown from one wall of emotion (terrified) to another (scrambling, nervous) to another (relieved, elated) to yet another (insanely enraged beyond all imagination).


Really. I’m not exaggerating.

Oh, where do I begin?

Andrew This is the little 4 year old boy who’s been complaining of headaches and “Mommy, my bed is twirling” for the past few months.

So, we took him to the doc:
“I can’t think of any reason why he’s got these symptoms. Let’s watch it for a few weeks and see if it keeps happening.”

And we went home and just kept careful watch of what might trigger these episodes.

A few weeks later, I brought him back to the doc, prompted by Andrew’s teacher who mentioned to me that he was complaining about his head.

Doc: “I think we should get a brain MRI because blahblah blah TUMOR blah
blah TUMOR blah BRAIN blah blahbla
blahblah TUMOR.”

There probably were a few more blahs in that conversation, interjected by several OH SHITs. But who’s keeping record?

Armed with lots of lab orders, phone numbers and a bunch of big, fancy medical terms that I quickly scribbled down, I just went on autopilot, arranging for specialists, labwork, insurance approvals and the MRI.

Because our insurance plan is more stringent than a hamster’s ass (being self-employed or a small business really sucks for affordable options), I spent hours on the phone getting the runaround. It was no fault of the insurance company – they have their rules and I signed paperwork agreeing to follow them. And of all the parties involved, my nurse case manager was most helpful.

But Andrew’s doctor’s office held the ONLY key to getting all the other tests and appointments approved. AND THEY KEPT PASSING THAT DAMN KEY AROUND THEIR OFFICE. At noon, Rick had possession of the key, but oops! He’s out to lunch. Call back. Then he passed it to nurse Kathy who then did a quarter-turn underhanded toss to office manager just seconds before her 2-minute time out. Leave a message. Then office manager Stacy dribbled it to center field, fake right, fake left and shot it towards the basket, only to be intercepted by what’s-her-name the receptionist. Call back.

Oh, if you can’t tell. I don’t know jack shit about basketball. Whatever.

Finally, I got the brain MRI scheduled at the hospital for Tuesday morning. But wait, the a bumbling nurse calls Monday afternoon saying they had a scheduling goof and the next opening was in 4 weeks. Would we mind waiting?

hmmmm…it’s just a possible FUCKING TUMOR in my kid’s head. What do you think???

So after my little hissy fit, they gave in an told me to come tomorrow morning 7am sharp. We get there at 7am. We checked in and waited. And waited. And waited. An hour and half later, still waiting. Keep in mind that Andrew wasn’t allowed to have a drop of fluid or anything to eat since midnight. My poor baby is thirsty, “a little sip of water please, Mommy?”


I go ask. “Oh, I’m sorry. We’re missing some paperwork from his file. We have to wait until your doctor’s office opens at 8:30 to get the paper faxed over”


and then they forgot about us.

sigh (wishing either I had some Valium or a bag of petrified brussel sprouts to pelt the staff with)

Finally. Andrew’s name was called. Oh my little precious baby was scared. Scared of blood, scared of needles, scared of the mask that they would have to put over his mouth to make him go night-night for a while so that they could get the MRI of his brain. He was so terrified he started shaking, screaming, crying, hyperventilating. He didn’t want the doctors, the nurses, the instruments. He just wanted to go home and hide in bed. So the doctor on duty gave him a “cousin of Valium” to make him sleepy, woozy and more cooperative…just so they could at least get him to lay still enough to hook up all the monitoring equipment and the dreadful mask to sedate him.

I’m surprised that they didn’t offer me a whiff of the stuff either, though I was tempted to wrestle that mask away from the nurse and suck in a few deep, long breaths before security would come arrest me. But I was chicken shit and didn’t.

I stayed with Andrew up until he was sedated and then was escorted out. I have no idea how long I was in the waiting room, but kept checking in with the front desk just in case they forgot about us AGAIN. That waiting room is hell. Not only was the TV stuck on some political bullshit channel but I was going through all possible worst case scenarios in my mind.

After a loooong time, a nurse came to me and said simply, “Andrew is awake. Come with me.” She led me towards a room where a nurse was holding a small, shrieking, thrashing child. The cry was unfamiliar and that was not my child. I know my child’s cry and that is not Andrew.

But it was Andrew. I had never heard this cry before because I am a mother who does everything possible to shield and protect my children from harm, hurt and suffering. And this was the first time Andrew experienced this much fear. It took about a half hour to calm his thrashing body about half the hospital’s supply of Spiderman stickers to bribe him to stop crying.

We wobbled outta that hospital, his legs still unsure of supporting his body as the effects of the sedation medication was still wearing off.

And then began the wait for the results.

I prayed to Buddha that they didn’t forget about us again.

The phone rings that afternoon and it was the original doctor, Andrew’s primary pediatrician, you know, the blah blah blah TUMOR doctor.

“MRI came back fine. Andrew’s brain is normal. Maybe he just needs glasses. We should get him an eye exam”

[this portion of the blog had to be edited out due to extreme foul language]

Excuse me, but a FUCKING EYE EXAM? Let’s see if this makes any sense.


What do you think should have happened first, a $200 eye exam? or a $5,000 brain MRI that absolutely terrified and haunted Andrew so badly he’s got nightmares every single night since?

hmmm….can someone hand me that tennis racket? Because I think I might just have a bunch of petrified brussel sprouts stuffed in my left pocket.

We’re in Los Angeles right now, so the eye exam will have to wait until we return. But I do think Andrew would look pretty damn smart in glasses. Ok, these are really plastic play goggles from this toy.


Anyways, we’re doing great – the boys are having so much fun at PoPo (my mom) and GongGong’s (my dad) house – especially jumping on OPF (other people’s furniture) as they discovered you get a higher bounce and a faster lift on nice, new, expensive leather couches.

We’ll be here for another week visiting, me working, kids exploring….while Scott stays home to work, keep my garden alive (TOMATOES! TOMATOES! TOMATOES!) and try to win a nice, cushy seat in this year’s World Series of Poker, because yeah, we could certainly use an extra $35 million. πŸ™‚ The kids and I miss him terribly! But thanks to email, text, phone calls, instant messaging, we bug him every 15 minutes.

EDIT: While it might seem I might be upset at the medical system or insurance system, I’m not. Yes, they are broken, but I can’t name one country that has a perfect system. I was just upset at the entire situation and specific moronic people that get paid to “toss the key” around. I do understand that doctors practice under such great risk for malpractice suits – so yeah, if I were a doctor, I’d probably cover my ass too. I am very grateful that the tests were negative and relieved that at least no matter what, we can rule out the big “T” word. But damn. I need a new pediatrician!


Los Angeles Cooking Classes

So I’m in LA teaching 2 classes – one on Thursday and the other on Saturday. Both are hands-on classes at Epicurean School of Culinary Arts, a super-cool studio teaching kitchen blocks from the Beverly Center. Wanna come? There are a few spot left in each class. And bring your camera! We’ll talk a bit about food photography and maybe do an impromptu photo shoot of the dishes we cook.

This girl will be helping me on Thursday’s class (excited to meet her and her boyfriend in person!)

and if you’re free on Saturday night and want to assist in the class, I’d love to have you. Shoot me an email at [email protected].

LOS ANGELES, CA Thursday, April 17th 6:30pm: Asian Party Food.

Please contact the Epicurean Culinary Academy to register.

Vietnamese Fresh Summer Rolls with Cashew Nut Dipping Sauce
Minced Chicken in Cool Lettuce Cups with Crispy Noodles
Korean Bulgogi Spiced Burger Bar
Fresh Lemongrass Ginger Ale

LOS ANGELES, CA Saturday, April 19th 6:30pm: Southeast Asian II (different menu from last SEAsian class in LA)

Please contact the Epicurean Culinary Academy to register.

Lemongrass Chicken & Coconut Soup
Malaysian Chili Shrimp
Vietnamese Fragrant Crispy Chicken Wings

Vegetable Pad Thai

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Comments 125

  1. Ellie @ Kitchen Wench

    Geezus, thinking about the fright I got reading the first half of this post, you must have been absolutely terrified out of your mind – and then rightly p*ssed off when they turned around and talked about glasses, talk about doing things the wrong way around! I’m glad to hear that the little man is alright though, hopefully he’ll get some spunky eyewear soon to sort out the twirling bed πŸ™‚

  2. Nilmandra

    What a nightmare. I’m sorry you had to go through all that and that kiddo is still upset but also really glad that it’s nowhere as serious as initially feared. You must have been so terrified though. Looking forward to seeing Andrew in (proper) glasses!

  3. js

    Thank you for sharing the story and I am glad that Andrew is fine.

    I find myself getting outraged at other people’s irresponsibility (do doctors get paid more when they order more expensive tests?) — but I am glad that everything worked out for the best.

  4. Cynthia

    I cannot begin to imagine your frustration and anger. Like you said, I can’t think of anywhere that has a perfect system. It hurts. I am so happy to hear that Andrew is fine.

  5. Mama Kate

    After reading this story and your article in the Tampa Tribune on Wednesday April 16, 2008 I was moved to comment on kids in general and invite you to visit myspace as I think I can help you with the health insurance issue as well! After 20 years of dealing with all commercial insurance companies I have some suggestions for you regarding your coverage you may want to know but I won’t go into that here!

    I did, however, want to comment on the whole “kids say the darndest things and often eat them too!” I also have 2 children 2 years apart, somewhat older than yours, but “been there, done that,” if you know what I mean! You had mentioned the “sugar packed snacks” and the request for broccoli spear instead…when my daughter was 5, she is now 9, she actually requested, for DESSERT, a bowl of hot buttered fresh peas! She said she didn’t want anything too “sugary” ’cause she thought it would make her feel bad in the tummy! She is still that way today! My son, now 6 about to turn 7, will trade his sister at dinner his carrots for her mushrooms, but anything green gets fought over! And lastly, they both are into Asian food (I am a “retired” chef/caterer, who specialized in any ethnic cuisine you wanted) to the extent I created the rule in our house if you want to eat it, you have to help roll it. By the time they were each 4, they were able to sit at the table and expertly roll Crab Rangoon like a pro! I just wanted to share this with you in hopes of brightening your day!

  6. Enjoli

    I am thankful that your little boy is doing great. I feel so terrible that he had to go through that (hell, even you). I can’t imagine it was any better for you to have to see your baby suffer the way he did. I think it’s big of you to excuse our medical system for trying to “cover their ass” but it’s really sad that something so simple as needing glasses can be SO misdiagnosed. Back in the ’90’s when A.D.D. was a new thing, my brother was diagnosed (or should I say misdiagnosed) with A.D.D. It turns out he wasn’t having issues with his attention, it turns out he was sitting in the back of the class room (due to a last name starting with S) with astigmatism. The day my children are old enough to feel something is wrong, that is the first thing I am going for… and eye exam. I commend you for being a responsible mother and my favorite part of your entry was how you mentioned you didn’t recognize his screams because you have done all you can to shield him from hurt and suffering. That nearly made me cry. Good luck to Andrew. Bless you.

  7. Jen Yu

    Oh woman, I’m sorry about that run around. Welcome to the world of Health Care in America πŸ™ I have been told that patients need to be diligent about their health care providers and to stay on top of things… but it’s hard to do, which you already know. I’m glad Andrew is okay and sorry he had to endure the trauma. Glasses don’t seem so bad in comparison. All the best and hang tough, lady. xxoo

  8. Single Guy Chef

    Wow, that was a traumatic experience to have to go through. I’m surprised you even had the wherewithal (sp?) to prepare for your LA classes. I’m sure the classes will just be perfect, just like your little boy! πŸ™‚

  9. Maven

    Ok, hope I’m not outta line here, and I’m not an MD, but as the daughter of an RN, granddaughter of an MD and RN, I cut my teeth on medical discussions over dinner (why do the truly grody convos happen over food??) my knee jerk response to his symptoms was eyes or inner ear. Brain tumor didn’t even occur to me.
    In addition to the eye exam I’d have him looked at by an Ear, Nose, & Throat Dr.
    Inner ear infections or imbalances can cause the symptoms you describe too. Just something to keep in mind if it doesn’t clear up with the eye exam or new glasses.

  10. Maven

    As for your baby’s trauma, I feel for you. Next Tuesday we have to take my 7yr old to the hospital so they can put him under to fill 3 teeth! Poor little guy just freaks out in the chair when they give him nitrus. His dentist even tried Demerol to calm him…no dice.

  11. Tarah

    Oh wow. That had to of been a painful and draining experience. I’m surprised that you didn’t tear them apart; I know I would have! Glad to hear that everything is fine though!

  12. Christine

    Jaden, I am so sorry that your family had to go through that. We had a similar experience when my daughter was 3 months old (picture a hospital and her hooked up to a heart monitor and it flat lined and no one came for 35 minutes! Luckily she had disconnected one of the cables for the monitor and I was there and knew that she was okay!) If you are ever in Delaware I would love to go to one of your cooking classes. If Andrew needs glasses, do the Harry Potter look! I think he would look adorable!

  13. Tracy

    So glad your guy is ok.

    I hate the screaming of a kid coming out of anesthesia. Have only been through it twice, when my son had ear tubes in and out. I noticed that all of the kids seem to do that crying and thrashing. The nurses said it’s like they are fighting the anesthesia. I’m not exactly sure it’s fear, exactly, but in any case sorry to hear you had to go through all that.

  14. katy

    Jaden, I am so, so happy that he’s ok. I’m sure this was a nightmare experience, but it’s so much better than it turned out to be something minor, even with all that scariness and frustration. Hopefully he had a great time in California to make up for all of this!!!

  15. Lore

    Oh boy! Thank God he’s ok!
    The thing is my husband went through the same infernal “drill” as a kid. And yes, in the end he just needed glasses. Somehow those doctors should learn to hand out the possible diagnosis gradually/ incremental by gravity and check them in that order. Your post proved me they have a long way until then!

  16. Meg

    I’m glad he’s okay. I hope the fears from the MRI end soon.

    I’m going to guess it’s going to take a while longer for you to be okay. Hopefully, firing your pediatrician will make you feel better. Smacking your pediatrician would almost certainly make you feel better, but there’s that niggling issue of an assault charge and having to arrange for and pay a sitter until you make bail.

  17. Mike

    Mind you, in retrospect its easy to say the eye exam should have come first. But if the pediatrician had said..well lets check his eyes, and then they were clear….and then he said…oh well..lets do an MRI for a tumour, would he not be accused of wasting time on less sinister causes? And would it not in this case seem more important, no matter what the cost, to rule out such a possibility, so that in case a tumour was present treatment could be initiated as soon as possible? sometimes a procedure may be more invasive or more traumatic for a patient, but that often may be the cost of getting the most important answer as soon as possible. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Foresight is much less pleasant.

  18. pictomo

    I get what you’re saying Mike but there was an easier, equally ass-covering way to take care of Andrew. If you reread the the post you will notice a BIG trend….no one in a big damn hurry to get him scheduled. He could have had an eye-exam, gotten his glasses, gone to Disneyworld and only spun around on the Tea Cup ride and probably still not have had an MRI appointment available when he arrived home. Schedule both in sequence immediately doing the least invasive first followed by the scheduled MRI if deemed necessary. Golly!

  19. Kiana

    So glad your son’s okay! As a medical student I have to say that we get drilled from day one to go with the worst case scenario first. It sounds cruel (and dude could have explained it much much better) to put someone through tests like that, but you can’t miss those things. If a kid comes in with chronic headaches, and vertigo it’s a brain tumor until proven otherwise. Same goes for chest pain, headache w/ neck pain, and tummy aches (heart attack, meningitis, appendicitis until proven otherwise even though it usually is nothing). It’s not about getting sued we just don’t want to miss something that could kill you. He did the right thing as far as diagnosis goes. He just needs to work on not freaking out the moms.
    Anywho, i’m off to figure out what the heck to do with this coconut I just bought. Hopefully I won’t have as hard a time opening it as you did Jaden (funniest post of all time!).

  20. Saphire

    Jaden, so glad Andrew okay…i know how nerve wrecking that must be for you. My 2nd son had to go through a whole series of test when he was 1, including head ultra sound, MRI, blood test, b/c his motor skills & play skills are slower than average. He even went through eyes surgery to tighten his eyes’muscles. All the tests came back normal. They can’t figure out why he’s not doing what he’s suppose to be doing at a specific time frame, so they put him in therapy which is helping slowly but surely. I know deep inside that he’s fine, he’s just taking his time. But i know when they were sending me and hubby all over w/referrals for the test, etc, i felt the same way you did…you just go to autopilot mode…until after the fact when you get a chance to kinda snap out of it.

    Hopefully it is just glasses that he needs, keep us up to date.

  21. Elanor

    That’s absolutely terrible! I hope that Andrew recovers from the traumatic experience. I know how he feels though, when I was in kindergarten I pretty much went through the same thing for about a month in class. Headaches, and just overwhelming inability to see anything. Both my parents wear glasses, though so that was the first thing they thought of.

    I’m so sorry they put you through the wringer πŸ™

  22. Kayla Palmer

    I’m so sorry about you having to put up with all of that and poor little Andrew. I have to say I went through a similar problem with myself. I’m 15 and have been suffering from headaches for over a year now. Every time I go to the doctor about them they want to run some sort of test. MRI. Blood test. Diabetes test. Nothing was ever showing up and I was beginning to give up. I had mentioned to my mother that it was hard for me to see the board in History class in order to copy notes. We went for and eye exam and it showed I needed glasses so now I have had them for a month and haven’t had a headache yet.

    So after spending all that money and time away from school cause I couldn’t move because of a headache, I finally have a new doctor.

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