Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bracing Ourselves

A simple well visit to the pediatrician from July 2014 will stick with us for a while. Well visits are supposed to be pretty low-maintenance-- in and out, everything's great, cover your eye and read the 4th line, ok try the 5th line, breathe in, breathe out, breathe deeply, see you in a year, maybe try eating some vegetables for a change.

This time it was different - and not just because all three kids were actually in the Well Room at the same time. The middle child was shown to not have any muscles at all based on some seriously gross gross motor skills, but my daughter also received some significant, routine-altering news at the same visit.

I'll admit, when I got home from work, and my wife informed me that our daughter may have scoliosis. at first I may have laughed a little. When I was in junior high, every single one of us was diagnosed with scoliosis, or its distant cousin "possible scoliosis."

Leave me alone. I'm in the shower.
Our universal sign for "the bathroom is in use."

This came after getting our annual physical which involved having an 85-year-old man grab our scrotum, us turning our heads, coughing, then contorting our bodies into the shape of a lower-case "n." Pretty sure only the last part was used in the "possible scoliosis"diagnosis. But we ALL had possible scoliosis. I knew kids were advanced these days--I didn't learn my multiplication tables nearly as early as my daughter is-- but receiving the "possible scoliosis" treatment six years in front of her Daddy? Unheard of.

Still, in the interest of due diligence, we accompanied our daughter to the children's hospital just to make sure. Sure enough, the x-rays revealed a 33-degree curvature of the spine. Textbook scoliosis. (How could we as parents not see it? Draw an imaginary line from one shoulder blade to another, you get a cliff the Price Is Right yodeler is afraid to scale. How do we NOT see that? What kind of parents are we?)

What does this mean? It means to avoid surgery later in life, my daughter would need to wear a brace for the balance of her growing years. 22 hours a day, every day until she's done growing. Nobody does anything for 22 hours a day, especially 7-year-olds, without a crying fit or a nearly unlawful amount in bribery. This was going to be a challenge. Not sure if we were ready for it.

At first our daughter embraced it. The back brace she'd wear like a giant Band-Aid. Kids love Band-Aids because they bring an disproportionate amount of attention to its bearer, so when you have a plastic Band-aid the size of your torso, you probably get to sit in the queen chair for a week and win Teacher's Pet status indefinitely.

Before and after
A little before and after.
But then stark reality started to set in. 22 hours with that thing on. A tight piece of plastic, wrapped around your back, while you sleep, while you sit in school, while you live. This thing and its larger versions will grow with you and be a part of you for the rest of your childhood. And you KNOW your parents will nag you about it. You may take it off to shower, to play your violin, to go to gym class. That's it. So, yeah, a little apprehension.

But in yet another example of kids proving more resilient than their parents, she's killing this brace thing. Soon after receiving the brace, my daughter's teacher had her stand up in the front of the class and explain just what was going on (show-and-tell style.) She explained why she got to sit "in the spinny chair" with a pillow when the rest of the kids are sitting on the floor, and why she has to run down to the school nurse every Tuesday before gym class. She explained that her spine was "crooked" and the brace would help keep it from getting worse.

And that's why second-grade kids are awesome-- they get it. Maybe not right away, but eventually they get it. They're curious but innocent. They seek answers but don't judge. They think everything is cool and are so willing and able to adapt. We should all be so smartly naive.

Within weeks, the brace became virtually a non-issue, and now it's part of who she is and who she will be. She may never get to the 22-hour plateau, but close enough. There are so many reasons to be thankful in this situation: To the hospital, for giving my daughter the best attention you can give a girl and for talking us through the options, pros and cons, and for talking us down off the ledge. To our daughter's teacher, who made her feel so comfortable and let her educate her own classmates. And to our pediatrician, who first suspected trouble at a routine well visit...without that heads-up, we may never have known until surgery was the only option. (Go to your well visits folks!)

And most thankful for a brave little girl who understands what she needs to do to get better. This potential game-changer then turns out to be just a bump in the road. Just a part of life. There was, however, a time when my daughter wanted to commemorate the whole thing with a family video to show we were "all about that brace (that brace)." We poiltely declined. Besides, that's been done already I think. Done better than we can.

She can still do this with a brace on. I never could.


Leslie Carnacchi said...

Hi Jonathan, I've been meaning to post a comment each time I've read your blog entries!! You've made me laugh until I've cried….and although my kids are all grown now, I've had so many "been there, done that" moments while reading "Let's Play Three". But this latest one…..well, it just made me cry. To read about the bravery, courage and resilience of your daughter was such an inspiration on this first day of 2015. Made me terribly guilty about all the little things that I whine about on a daily basis….and they are ALL little things! I will be keeping your whole family in my prayers as you continue on your parenting journey!! Keep writing…….you have such a gift! All the best in the New Year to all of you……….Leslie (Jordan's mother-in-law)

Jonathan Criswell said...

It is so nice to hear from you Leslie! You're too nice...I'm just messing around with the site. No real clue what I'm doing.

Gabby's a sweet girl...pretty tough. She does better than we do most times.

Hey congrats on your big news! We love Emily and are so glad she and Jordan found each other. She's a wonderful woman and we love having her as part of our family.

Always cool to hear nice I guess if you keep reading them I'll keep throwing stuff up there :-)

Sarah Rooney said...

Hey, I'm definitely not up for mom of the year... My 14 year old son is a soccer player. Everything hurts. All the time! Well, he was complaining about his back hurting. I told him that he needed to suck it up. I was talking to my good friend who also happens to be our Sports Med doc. I told her about the whining. She stopped me though and asked, how old is he again? I told her and she said, "bring him in. There's this thing that happens at that age.." Oh... SHITtakes! I took him in. Nuclear xrays later, we find out that he's cracked a vertabrae, and he had a lower one that was also detached. The lower one was an "old" injury (fade back to previous year when he complained about the back) and BOOM. Bad mom. How could I be so callous, and stupid? I beat myself up about that one. He's fine. He wore a brace like that too. It's a weird condition but she assured me that most of the time they're never diagnosed. They don't hurt that bad. Nobody thinks anything of it... but it could save him surgery later. Sigh. They're resilient though, thank the stars. And some things never change. Just in the last two weeks he's complained of an ankle, someone cleated him, his foot, (this one left marks, a cleat during a game), a hip (playing with his bro, he slipped and hit the floor) and things I can't even remember. :-) I'm still telling him to buck up. Or offering to take him to Doc Martha!

Jonathan Criswell said...

Whoa Sarah! Poor guy! I'll still vote for you for Mom of the year anyway :)

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