Thursday, December 13, 2012

By The Time He's Two...

The day after the ultrasound that confirmed Kemper had Spina Bifida, we went to see Dr. Culler in Chapel Hill, NC. He had previously worked with the MOMS study in which the repair surgery is done in utero instead of after birth.Our Perinatologist sent us to him for a second look and he said the words that helped me pull my broken heart and shattered dreams back together.

"By the time he's two you may never even know he had Spina Bifida."

Not a guarantee, not a certainty, but hope to cling to that my baby would have a shot at typical.  Thing is, back then I didn't know much about Spina Bifida so I wasn't sure what I was hoping for. All I knew was that what the Perinatologist had to say had been the most frightening, disheartening, terrible future for our baby.

Turns out, that's pretty normal when you're delivered the Spina Bifida diagnosis.  I believe it's a combination of CYA (cover your ass) and outdated information.  It takes a very long time for the standard of care to change and for information to be up to date for doctors that don't deal with Spina Bifida every day.
Dr. Culler gave us a better informed, more realistic set of expectations because his career included ground breaking surgery on a fetus's spinal cord.  I'm not saying that's what it takes to get informed doctors, but it feels pretty close to that sometimes.

Anyway, let's fast forward two years.  Turns out that Kemper still noticeably has Spina Bifida and that is OK. Lots of things have changed, lots of things are better than we ever hoped, and I've made some fantastic friends in the SB community.  I will say this, Kemper has very high functioning for Spina Bifida, his lesion is sacral, and he can walk.  So, I suppose on the outside if you look at him, you see a typical child. But he's got a ton of stuff going on medically and developmentally.  Again, not as much as most kids with SB, but he's still got it happening.

I continue to digress.  My point is this, if you told me two years ago that there would be a point where I could cath him in an airport bathroom with people staring and not bat an eye, I would have called you a dirty liar.  If you told me that I would get through sending him to the OR 5 times without fainting, I wouldn't have believed you. If you said, you're going to get to the SB Conference and meet all these people who've supported you in your journey, I would have said Kemper was far too fragile to travel. He flew twice this year and took countless car trips with me. He fell on his face, slammed his fingers in doors, threw tantrums, and all kinds of other stuff too.

This is our life. Kemper is our world and he is living. Yeah, he's got Spina Bifida, but in a way, that doctor was right. It's not the first thing we think of anymore. Yeah he wears braces, yeah, he's got a shunt, etc, etc.  No big. I can't believe I reached this point, so I guess it is a big deal. I want all the newly diagnosed parents out there to know that this place exists.  I'm settling in and grabbing a drink with an umbrella in it, I'll see you here in a couple of years.  Until then, if you need me, I'm there.

                                                            Happy Birthday, Kiddo. :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My First SBA Conference 2012

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the Spina Bifida Association's 39th Conference in Indianapolis.People have been abuzz in all the SB groups on facebook, including my group, Living With Spina Bifida. It's been a personal goal of mine to meet some of the delightful people I've had the gift of meeting in the online Mom and SB community. It was exciting to count it down with friends and talk about meeting up in the lobby. There were so many sessions I wanted to attend, so much going on, so many doctors and speakers and vendors. The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Colorectal Center was presenting and had a booth. A million medical supply providers for catheters and orthodics, different wheelchair vendors, the ZipZac chair, armtrykes, standers, service dogs, latex allergy groups, and so on. Jean Driscoll spoke at the celebration luncheon and she is an amazing athlete and speaker.  My homie Erica Hoke Potter won an award for her fundraising efforts for 4 before the 4th.  They shined the spotlight on some really awe-inspiring people who are doing important things.

This trip had me pumped. Super pumped! However, it was a journey fraught with trouble.  It was cancelled flights, bodily fluids, personal injury, and Hell on my back.  I could be heard saying I was never going to leave my house again after this trip.  Kemper is still out of sorts over a week later and missing a piece of his top front tooth.  Thankfully it's a baby tooth, but still, a chipped tooth.  I'm nursing a 2nd degree burn on my hand, and some of our clothes were thrown away.  I had a big stroller, diaper bag, cath bag, carry on, a suitcase, and my car seat.  It was ridiculous. And so hot, dude.  Crazy hot.

I'd go again in a heartbeat though. The bond between the people in our community is strong, for the most part it was like getting together with old friends.  The information and networking at the conference was absolutely worth the trip. Kids Camp was fanastical, the girls running it have a sister with SB. They were great with my son, and with the clingy Mom. (It was the first time I'd been away from him like that, c'mon, that was hard!) The tips and pointers and feeling of someone really knowing what your life is like and understanding how hard and how wonderful the day to day can be is so awesome that it makes me a little emotional. My heart was usually soaring or breaking, I cried a little, and I got some really solid information and feel like I have a plan for Kemper.  That feels freaking amazing.  It's like you're bursting with renewed energy to be home from conference.  You have all this information and data and know what you need to work on, and it's rejuvenating to the spirit to have that burst of steam to do something great for Kemper. It feels good to have a plan and goals and ask panels of experts questions and get answers and suggestions that are working.

If someone asked me if conference was worth the hefty tag of attendance, hotel, and airfare, I'd say without a doubt YES. Also, it's pretty sweet to stay in a swanky hotel and go to receptions and have wine and catered breakfast and lunch for a few days with some really nifty peeps.

Next year will be a little different with mini conferences, but I still plan on going to whatever they have, and participating in the SBANCSC Walk n Rolls this coming year. This is my cause and I have renewed vigor.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Brace Yourselves

Kemper got the DAFO's, I talked about that in my last post.  I was nervous about them and not looking forward to it, I tried to look on the super bright side, but I have a way with the opposite occasionally.

I took him to the orthotist's office and a giant man who looked like a cross between Mr. Clean and one of those old time-y muscle men with a mustache came in and fit him. He said they fit great, his shoes were fine, and he sent me on my way.

Well, there was the whole insurance/ CDSA/ pay out of pocket thing, which got straightened out, but there was a thing.  I'm still waiting on a refund check. Lesson to myself, always call before something new to find out if it's covered. But I digress.

He came home in them, didn't care for them, I worried and fretted. Kelly, Squish's PT came out and got him to do stuff he hadn't done before.  He works for a solid hour with her on standing, cruising, stepping, balance, etc. After that, we put him in the braces for an hour a day.  Now we're up to 3 hours a day.

He is pretty close to independent steps.  He's taken quick stumbling steps on his own, and he walks to the mailbox and back holding my hand.  He will walk all over the house holding a hand to give our dog treats. He'll cruise between furniture for books and toys and cheerios.  It's been pretty awesome to watch.  He's making mighty strides in his strength and stamina.  He can even stand up alone until he realizes he's not holding on to anything.

He's pretty much teaching me at every turn that my worrying is nothing compared to his resiliency and determination. He's like sunshine chasing my gloomy clouds of doubt away, even when he doesn't succeed at something, he tries again with a smile on his face.

I gotta tell ya, this Mommy thing is pretty cool. For your enjoyment, I've included a picture of Squish rocking his braces.  He's pretty adorable.

So until next time, I wish for you to find a little bit of sunshine to wash your worries away.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I've never been fond of surprises. Surprise parties invite me to be as awkward as possible and most likely un-showered. Surprise gifts make me almost as awkward. I give my husband a list for holidays and my birthday. He doesn't care for that part of my personality because he likes to surprise me. I hate I ruin it for him by continually asking if he stuck to the list. Most of the time I end up with presents early because of the questions. I plan our getaways, day trips, doctor appointments, all that stuff... it gives me the illusion of control and surprises knock me off my game. If we do something spontaneous, it was absolutely my husband's idea.

That brings me to surprise DAFO's. That stands for Dynamic Ankle Foot Orthosis. When Kemper was in the womb we were told many times that he would be a walker.  I believed it because he kicked me like he was rave dancing in my womb from the first time I felt him move until he was delivered. He wiggled and pushed and strained and ended up in a downward dog on his face in his isolette. He popped stitches because he moved so much. He crawls, he pulls up and cruises. Everyone talks about how he's going to walk and need little to no help. That was until he went to the Orthotics guy. Then the PT and this guy I just met decided he needed DAFO's.

That's a brace that goes up his shin, with straps. That was a surprise. And I didn't like it. The PT tells me, "It's temporary, when he's got this we'll cut them down to AFO's and then he'll move to a shoe insert." When you ask a PT why all of a sudden it went from shoe inserts to big honking plastic braces, it's best not to mention you fear punching people in the face for staring. That tends to confuse and frighten people who don't get me. Would I punch someone in the face really? I'm not ruling it out, but 99% of the time, I bet I could manage not doing that.

See I'm sidetracked. It's not even really staring that bugs me here. Some of it is the shock of the sudden change, which has been explained to me, but I'm still not a big fan. Then there's the whole make him wear them, look out for redness, blisters, and pressure sores. What if he hates them?

I had a cat a long time ago that I thought I could put on a leash.  I also thought I could train him to use the toilet, but that's a story for another time. Well, I would put this harness and leash on the cat and suddenly, he was rigor mortis like those fainting goats.  Would. Not. Move. He would have made a convincing stuffed animal in that situation were it not for the flattened ears and look of contempt in his eyes.

Is this what it's going to be like with poor Squish? I strap him in braces and he won't move? Or he goes tomato face and wails. Doing what you know is best for your child is tough enough, then add the fact it's not something I'm too thrilled about on top of the possibility that he may hate them and you have a pretty stressed out Mamma Bear.

They aren't even in yet, though, only ordered. So here's hoping I strap him in and he thinks they're the coolest. That would work. I've even tried to daydream to a Forrest Gump type scenario, we strap them on and he takes off. I'm aware that's a day dream. I'm fully expecting good and bad days. For the moment, I'm coming to terms with him needing braces. It's the only thing about him that would broadcast to the general public that he has Spina Bifida and that is the part that I think will be hard for me.

There will indeed be an update in the near future about how the braces are doing for him, how he handles them and if I punched anyone in the face I'll be sure to include the police report.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The "R" Word

This post is tough. Not everyone agrees with how I feel about the word retarded. I used to be one of those people. Things change.

When I was a kid, it was a thing to slap your hand and forearm against your chest in a flopping manner and talk with a forced speech impediment. That was supposed to be a burn, a joke, calling the person you were talking to retarded. I don't know if kids still do it, but the thought of it now makes me cringe.

I've said this before, I used to use the word retarded in such a way that it was a slur. When you take the word and use it out of context it takes on a negative connotation. Now people will say they would never refer to a child with MR as retarded. This baffles me. Yes, they have changed all the labels, do you know why? Because the word retarded has taken on such a negative connotation. Now it's a put down, a way to call someone stupid, to refer to yourself as forgetful, etc.

The odd thing is how vehemently people will argue to be able to continue using this word in a hurtful way. Arguing syntax, arguing definitions, posting the dictionary entry. The word has it's place in engineering, mechanics, music, etc. Not to describe how silly you feel for forgetting your lunch. Not to call someone stupid. I suppose this is piggy backing on me posting a blog link on my wall to "Herding Cats." It's a blog written by a woman whose daughter has MR and how people use the word retard or retarded in an insensitive way. I linked it to my facebook and all Hell broke loose.

My son doesn't have MR.  He's got Spina Bifida, hydrocephalus, a VP shunt, a neurogenic bladder, hydronephrosis in one kidney, reflux, texture issues with feeding, a hydrocele (hernia), and he lacks the dorsi flexion in his feet he needs to walk properly. He's already been referred to as retarded by ignorant people. He has had multiple surgeries, has OT, PT, has had UTI's, been hospitalized, and goes to the doctor so much that everyone at the front desk knows him. He has to fight so much, just like all special needs kids. These kids fight EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for things most people take for granted. Why do people want to add to their fight by throwing around a word that can cut so deeply?

That's why I'm so passionate about ending the use of the word retarded as a put down or way to describe how slow you are getting started in the morning. I'm a special needs mother and I want to advocate for the whole community.  

Why would you argue to continue being able to say something that can be so hurtful? This is the part that truly confounds me. Is it selfishness? Is it the perception of being told what to do? I don't understand it. I can't imagine anyone giving an explanation that would justify this in my mind. That's where I leave this post, I drew my line in the sand and it makes me mad as Hell that we even have to have a line. If you disagree with me, that's fine for you but this is not an agree to disagree situation for me. This is a deal breaker. I'll not suffer fools on this issue.