A twenty-four-hour state of turgid alarm

Reading time: About 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: turgid.

I have a daughter with a genetic disorder. She’s done really well,  but the nature of her condition (neuro-fibrom-atosis) means that something can go wildly wrong at any time. It makes me wary.

It also makes me interested in other kids (and their parents) who have to deal with the genetic lottery. One such parent is Ian Brown, a reporter with the Globe and Mail. His son’s fate is far more complex and serious than my daughter’s. The boy has cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome (CFC), a so-called “orphan syndrome” (because it’s so rare) affecting no more than 300 people world-wide.

The symptoms are brutal. Walker (the child) has an unusual facial appearance, no ability to speak, and a compulsion to punch himself in the face. He’s thought to have the mental capabilities of a three-year-old.

But he’s lucky to have Ian Brown for a dad. Brown and his wife (also a journalist) raised him for the first eight years of his life. Then they found a group home for him with full-time staff.

Their story is told in loving detail in the heart-wrenching book The Boy in the Moon. You don’t need to have a child with a genetic disorder to be moved by this account. I’ll write another day about the plethora of figurative language contained in the text. Today, I simply want to focus on a single word, turgid. Here’s how Brown used it.

At home, what had begun as a normal concern for a preemie baby had mutated into a twenty-four-hour state of turgid alarm. 

The word means “swollen” or “distended” and is often used to describe rivers, engorged by flood waters. The adjective dates back to 1610s, from the Latin turgidus, meaning “swollen, inflated.” I like the way Brown uses it — unusually — to describe an emotional state.

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