Poisoned by Degrees

November 21, 2012 3 Comments


I am tackled by a flushed and freckle-faced little pixie as I enter the lobby to pick Reilly up from dance class. She beams up at me, eyes sparkling.

It takes everything within me not to let the building tears stream down my face.
She is simply unaware of the stress and anxiety I have been holding secret in my heart for the long weeks and months of late.
Blinking back.
I do not want to give myself away.

Tucking her into bed a couple of hours later, she giggles and showers me with kisses.

All the while my thoughts remain constant:

“So there you are, sweet baby. There’s my Reilly-girl.”

It is overwhelming.
And so very gratifying.

As this year has progressed, we had noticed that Reilly seemed a little withdrawn. With all of the ups and downs that our little family has been through over the last several months, Bryson and I had believed it to be a natural reaction to her medical issues and all of the changes that a new baby brings to a familial dynamic. We were troubled by this change in her demeanor, but thought it was a phase she would eventually emerge from. It wasn’t until we received a phone call from a concerned teacher that we were confronted by the true reality of the situation.

She had become aggressive, even borderline violent toward some of her classmates. On the playground she had screamed relentlessly at a group of children, not even flinching when a teacher approached her.

This was not our Reilly.

Immediately I knew something deeper was at work here.
Something was very wrong.

Racking my brain for possible variables that could create such a drastic change in temperament, I was coming up with more questions than answers. My mind went to dark places, and worries of more sinister causes plagued my thoughts.

Knowing He would know better than I, I opened my heart and pleaded with the Lord.

Please, please… Please let us know how to help our sweet little Reilly.

And then something happened that almost never does in my own personal experience.
The answer came immediately.  

It is her medication.

With that, I snapped my head up and looked at Bryson.
“I think it might be Reilly’s medicine.”

After a call to her care provider at Primary Children’s Hospital, we soon learned that in rare cases there had been incidents of irritability and other emotional difficulties associated with one of the medications she takes twice daily. For the last couple of weeks she has been completely off the suspected culprit, and the old Reilly is starting to reemerge.

Laughter fills our home again.
Smiley Reilly is back.

The contrast between this week and the events of late has been so striking, so dramatic, that I am taken with how unaware we were through it all. Of how low our poor little girl had sunk before we truly took notice.

This incident brought the story of Lehonti from the Book of Mormon to my mind. (See Alma 47.) Poisoned “by degrees,” he meets an untimely end that might have been altogether avoided had he been more aware and perceptive.

How often do we fall into bad habits, or forgo good habits that we know are crucial to our well being– be it physical or spiritual? Little things creep into our lives that don’t seem like such big deals– and subtly they begin to change us. And then one day, we wake up and don’t recognize the person we see in the mirror.

I am reminded of a beloved sermon President Gordon B. Hinckley gave while I was in college many years ago. He related the following story:

Many years ago I worked for a railroad in the central offices in Denver. I was in charge of what is called head-end traffic. That was in the days when nearly everyone rode passenger trains. One morning I received a call from my counterpart in Newark, New Jersey. He said, “Train number such-and-such has arrived, but it has no baggage car. Somewhere, 300 passengers have lost their baggage, and they are mad.”
I went immediately to work to find out where it may have gone. I found it had been properly loaded and properly trained in Oakland, California. It had been moved to our railroad in Salt Lake City, been carried to Denver, down to Pueblo, put on another line, and moved to St. Louis. There it was to be handled by another railroad which would take it to Newark, New Jersey. But some thoughtless switchman in the St. Louis yards moved a small piece of steel just 7.5 centimeters, a switch point, then pulled the lever to uncouple the car. We discovered that a baggage car that belonged in Newark, New Jersey, was in fact in New Orleans, Louisiana—2,400 kilometers from its destination. Just the 7.5-centimeter movement of the switch in the St. Louis yard by a careless employee had started it on the wrong track, and the distance from its true destination increased dramatically. That is the way it is with our lives. Instead of following a steady course, we are pulled by some mistaken idea in another direction. The movement away from our original destination may be ever so small, but, if continued, that very small movement becomes a great gap and we find ourselves far from where we intended to go.
Have you ever looked at one of those 5-meter farm gates? When it is opened, it swings very wide. The end at the hinges moves ever so slightly, while out at the perimeter the movement is great. It is the little things upon which life turns that make the big difference in our lives, my dear young friends.
This experience with our little Reilly has driven the point home forcefully.
Life is so very precious, and I am thankful for the excellent teachers, mother’s intuition, and divine inspiration that has helped us bring the light back into our little girl’s eyes once more.

Little things do matter.

November 21, 2012



  1. Reply

    Anisha Hill

    November 22, 2012

    Thank you! I needed to hear that. Also, I'm so glad that she is doing better

  2. Reply

    Chocolate on my Cranium

    November 22, 2012

    I'm so glad you were able to figure it out and that it wasn't something sinister. We've had to go to dye free medicine with our youngest because we found that Red 40 was causing his behavior change.

  3. Reply


    November 23, 2012

    So glad you were close to the spirit so that you were able to receive the prompting – and for the excellent teachers and especially that she is back to her normal happy self! Thanks for sharing this story. And your comments a few weeks ago at RI. I am glad you shared them.


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