Pro-life columnist, Michelle Malkin, recently shared about her 15-year-old daughter’s mysterious illness in the National Review. Doctors told her family that her daughter, Veronica, had costochondritis, which is defined by the Mayo Clinic as pain caused by inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone.
However, Malkin describes her daughter’s pain like this: “Her lungs, heart, and vocal cords are all ‘normal,’ and yet she describes a chronic feeling that she’s ‘drowning.’ Every day begins with gasping beyond her control, multiple times a minute, nonstop, every hour of every day, until she reaches a point of exhaustion at 1 or 2 in the morning. After a brief respite while sleeping, the day-mare starts all over again.”
Malkin first noticed Veronica’s health problem around Mother’s Day weekend when she started to have respiratory trouble and couldn’t seem to get good air. Malkin explained, “She “couldn’t get a good breath” and began gently gasping and sighing for air every few minutes. Two trips to the ER later, she had been administered ibuprofen for “costochondritis” and then albuterol to open up her airways.”
Unfortunately, Veronica appears to be getting worse, despite the slew of specialists the family has been seeing since May. They can’t figure out what’s wrong with her because many of the tests they’ve performed have come back normal. So far, Veronica’s taken medication for Tourettes and tics but none of it has helped her breathing. In fact, now she’s so sick that she remains in bed for days and her gasping for air has increased exponentially. Malkin says Veronica faces the real risk of aspirating since she has already choked on food and drink multiple times.
It has been agonizing to watch her suffer while waiting weeks and months on end to see an increasingly short supply of specialists. It is more agonizing knowing that, despite obtaining the best care possible for her, we still don’t really know what’s going on. “Dr. Google,” though much maligned, has helped connect us to compassionate patient advocacy groups and websites for other perplexed parents with children suffering chronic mystery ailments. The awareness of not being alone is profoundly comforting. But we don’t know how long the winding trail of diagnoses and trial-and-error prescriptions will go on.
On her birthday week, I’m overwhelmed at the strength and grace that my fierce first-born child has shown. My husband and I named her after St. Veronica, a woman who displayed great courage in the face of adversity when she stepped forward from a jeering mob to comfort Jesus on the road to Calvary.
Over the past month and a half, our teenage daughter has shown more resilience worthy of her namesake than I have witnessed in most adults. She is my hero. Through it all, Veronica has not cried or raged or lost her will. Not once. I confess that I can’t say the same, though I put on a good game face for work and public functions. With every labored breath she takes, every minute, every hour of the day, the same waking, aching thoughts echo without relief or resolution: “Is she all right? Is she going to be okay?!”