Friday, February 20, 2009

Talking About Toxoplasmosis

My son, Dharma, was born with a little abnormality. I personally don’t consider it a “defect,” since the word tends to impress the lack of something. Dharma has no lack of anything. He simply has an extra right thumb. It is termed “polydactyl” in medical science.
What causes it, you ask?
Well, in my opinion, it might be because I took care of too many pets when I was having him.
I had two long-haired dogs, two jackal-pups, and two queen-cats together with their five kittens when Dharma was inside of me. I personally bathed them, fed them, cleaned up the mess they made, and even handled their stools.
“Honey,” Octavian sighed. “You’re going to catch toxoplasmosis if you keep on doing that. You do realize it, I suppose?”
“In theory, I do,” I sighed back. “But I pray the Lord every morning when I wake up to protect me and the baby from that fetus-killing disease.”
Fetus-killing disease?
Oh, yes! For those of you who have never heard of toxoplasmosis before, here’s a hint:
“Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection. The infection agent is the form of toxoplasma parasite know as the oocyst which is transmitted in the feces of cats who become contaminated by eating mice, birds, and other previously infected creatures. Of the several thousand cases of congenital toxoplasmosis that occur in the United States each year, about 25% of the infants are born with irreversible defects: brain damage, blindness, and enlarged liver and spleen. In some cases, the babies are stillborn.” (Fishbein’s Illustrated Medical and Health Encyclopedia: Home Library Edition, 1983)
Our family doctor once explained three years ago, “Toxoplasmosis is deadly to fetus. If you acquire it within the first trimester, it is likely the baby won’t survive. And if you’re contaminated by the disease after the first trimester, the baby will probably survive, though not without high risks of birth defect, such as heart dysfunction, mental retardation, or lack of limbs. Nearly all women who suffer from toxoplasmosis are not able to bear children. And even if they do conceive, they are bound to miscarry.”
I am EXTREMELY and ASTOUNDINGLY LUCKY to give birth to a boy with two right thumbs and no internal or external birth defect of whatsoever! It seems that God really heard my prayer for a physically and mentally healthy child – praise the Lord!
Nevertheless, I should advise you, would-be-mothers: don’t be a daredevil like I was!
If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, PLEASE: avoid contact with animals (especially cats), maintain a good home and personal hygiene, refrain from eating raw or rare meats (satay or kebab, for example), and don’t eat or drink in places you’re not sure of its cleanliness. These are the precautions every expectant mothers MUST follow in order to protect herself and her baby from the threat of toxoplasmosis.

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