It would leave them with more serious possibilities, maybe leukemia.
Alison ordered the test and the test discovered the antibodies. Dooley breathed a sigh of relief. Up until then, no one had actually uttered the word leukemia aloud, and since the test told them it might be mono, they could still feel hopeful.
But Teddy didn't get any better.
Three days ago, in a conference with Dooley and Claudia, Alison said, "We haven't nailed this down. We've got to go ahead with other blood work."
They did. Teddy's white cells were abnormal. He had mild leukocytosis. He had atypical lymphocytes - white blood cells -- and some of them were bizarre. Alison called in the hematologist. Dr. Felipe Fallot tried to be reassuring to Claudia and Dooley.
"This is pretty close to the textbook picture of mononucleosis," he said, in his precise French-accented speech.
Claudia said, "But --?"
"But not exactly. I would like to aspirate some bone marrow."
"Dr. Fallot, what do you really think?" she asked desperately.
"I think it's mononucleosis."
Claudia was panicking. "If you really knew it was, you wouldn't ask for any more tests."
Fallot had just bowed his head.
Here in the lab, they were at the moment of truth. Dooley heard Tony and Felipe mumbling about the fixing and staining. They were making quick decisions, talking it through with the assistant and a pathology resident. At first Dooley strained to overhear them; even one word of optimism would have diminished the peculiar numb ache in his head and chest. Then he swung to the opposite extreme. Too frightened to let himself hear anything at all, he moved farther away. They were just talking about mechanisms anyhow. He was grateful that Alison let him alone in his silence for these moments, said nothing, just followed him, to be nearby in case he wanted to talk. Which he didn't. One more word of consolation would have made him frantic.
He still heard Teddy's screams echoing in his ears.
Dooley wondered whether Alison or Tony or Felipe gave a thought to the fact that Teddy was adopted. He knew some people believed you didn't care quite as much about an adopted child. Those people were so stupid. If anything, it was the opposite. An adopted child was such a wondrous gift.
Suddenly, his mood swung again. He needed speech, maybe he wanted to talk so he couldn't hear what the others were saying. He turned to Alison and whispered, "When we first got Teddy, it was like the sun coming out. We wanted a baby more than anything else in life. We'd tried so hard. Claudia had gone through every infertility treatment there was. The treatments were debilitating. She felt sick all the time. And time after time, they simply didn't work. She was utterly discouraged."
"She felt worthless. Like she couldn't do something that almost every other woman could do. She didn't just want a baby; she needed a baby."
"Then, when we started the adoption process, it was horrible. Months went by. Years. Six years! It seemed like there were no babies in the whole United States. Claudia wanted a baby that looked like her. Well, like us, I suppose," he put his hand to his red hair, "except that it didn't matter to me at all whether the baby looked like me. It mattered to Claudia. Red hair, green eyes, and that pale Irish skin-- "
Alison nodded. "I understand. Some of my patients' parents, people who've adopted, felt the same way."
"It sounds like ego. To want your child to look like you. Still, I guess maybe she didn't want it to be obvious everyplace we went that our child was adopted. I don't mean we'd hide the facts, but whatever. It made me uncomfortable because I knew there were thousands of African-American babies in this country in foster care who desperately wanted a family. It's one of the nasty things about adoption that white babies get adopted more than black babies. It's not right."
Copyright 2002 by Barbara D'Amato. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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