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HENOCH SCHÖLEIN PURPURA, or, as it’s (mercifully) abbreviated, HSP, operates like Skynet.
We all forget that the AI system from the Terminator franchise was created to distinguish between good and evil, but then *cough cough ChatGPT* it went haywire and Arnie had to step in. HSP takes a similar protective service—the body’s immune system—and weaponizes it against itself, attacking cells and sometimes organs.
Four years ago, when I took my son, Sam, to the ER because he had pink spots all over him, I didn’t know about HSP. And I guess neither did the ER staff, who said Sam had a rash and sent us home.
The other thing about HSP is that it’s viscerally brutal. Those pink spots become reddish-purple welts that can bulge, split, and bleed. Joints swell. Stomachaches and all-over itching create the need to simultaneously clutch your midsection and writhe.
When I took Sam to the ER the second time, his symptoms all of the above, the doctor diagnosed him with HSP and gave my wife and me his personal cell-phone number. Not because my son was in any immediate danger, but because he knew we were in for the long haul.
Before HSP, I remember Sam once tripping on the playground. He was hurt and crying, yet I told him, “Get up, you’re fine.” And I also remember thinking, Whoa, where did that come from? I literally just yelled at my son to shake it off. I had never said anything like that to my older daughter, Vivian. If she got hurt, I’d coddle her.
But then I thought more about where it comes from. “Man up” is a thing. Every Marvel movie has that scene where the hero, nearly defeated, rises to his feet. Patrick Mahomes had “grit” and “tenacity” for playing through a high ankle sprain to win Super Bowl LVII. Arnie himself famously (though now regrettably) diminished foes as “girlie men.” My “you’re fine” didn’t work with that playground scrape, and I wasn’t going to try it with HSP.
Through the course of Sam’s disease, I did not attempt to “fix” anything for him. I took him to doctor’s visits. I sat beside him in his pain. I choked down low-sodium meals.
And then something incredible and completely not of my doing happened: His disorder subsided around his seventh birthday.
He got up, and he was fine—just on his timeline instead of mine.
A version of this article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Men's Health.
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