Lucky 22 Centimeters

On our way out of Sinai on Monday Nick was pretty happy. We had just learned from Dr. Standard that the lengthening portion of this surgery is done. I had expected it to be. I had marked May18th as the last day in our lengthening register. Doing 4, .25 mm lengthenings per day made it pretty easy to calculate but it could not be official without an x-ray and the ok of Dr.Standard. 5cm of lengthening achieved with the PRECICE. There it is.

A filtered picture of Nicks leg to help hi-light where the new bone is filling in.
A filtered picture of Nicks leg to help hi-light where the new bone is filling in.

Back to leaving on Monday, while expressing his joy Nicholas said “Mom these people are miracle workers. I want to make sure that these things don’t get forgotten and there are people to keep them going”. So I asked if he wanted to be a doctor or a physical therapist so he could make sure they continue but I could tell by the look on his face it’s not an option (and I know he wants to be a chef), so I reminded him that there was a fellow in the room today, as always, because they are always teaching others so these techniques can continue and spread further. Nicholas said that was a huge relief. He cares about the future and other kids having access to what he has had. He feels lucky. That’s the magic I could not have imagined when he was a newborn but my child is lucky.

Nicholas has gained 22 centimeters through leg lengthening (so far). 22 is my lucky number but I think it’s lucky enough to be shared. For along time I thought Nick only needed 20cm’s but predictions change. Not usually quite so much though!

I could not have imagined almost 12 years ago that he would have come this far by this time. Nick’s legs are pretty much even now (again)! This journey has not been what I expected in almost any way. I thought I would have to work so hard to help Nicholas feel good about himself because of this big limb difference. I thought I had to make everything ok. I thought wrong.

He’s always been ok. He has always been his own sparkling self. That was always my biggest fear, not what would become of his leg but what would become of his heart. How would he feel about himself. Now I know he is ok, no matter what happens to his leg.

So many fibular hemimelia families are at the beginning of the journey, wondering what will be, trying to make the right choices. I’ve often said you just have to make the choice and then make it right. Making it right means finding the best possible doctor and team to live that choice out with your family. No one else can make that choice for you. I don’t know how Nicholas could have come this far without the ICLL team and I am grateful to all of them but it’s Dr. Standard that has me in awe still. It’s Dr. Standard who can ease my fears like no one else. He knows my kids leg inside out and he knows fibular hemimelia inside out. That’s everything. I said thank you on Monday but it never feels like enough.

So what can we do with our gratitude? We can fundraise for Save-A-Limb! Want to help click here! If this blog has helped you or inspired you, please give. If you have ever felt inspired by Nicholas, please give. If you want to help others walk, give! We joined an awesome team this year with our friends from Mexico. I can’t wait to them on October 10th!! Its the 10 year anniversary of Save-A-Limb and we are so exited. Nick will be riding! Please consider joining us for what will be an amazing day. You can give or register here. Please also consider sharing and encouraging others to give. Save-A_Limb has helped Nick get what he has needed. We will be forever grateful. Nicholas has had the best care in the world and for that we feel so lucky!

Summers of Surgeries

Some days I really can’t be positive. So I keep quiet. It was a rainy day anyway. No need to venture out into the world which is good because I happen to be pretty annoyed at the world. I am just tired of Nick’s summers being so surgery filled. Last year on June 17th (his baby sisters first birthday) it was the knee. This year on June 22nd (my birthday) it will be fixator removal. I could add previous surgeries to this list but you get the picture.

As much as this is a surgery to be celebrated it is hard because we have no idea how he will feel after it. He might now want to walk for a while. The rod could cause him pain. Who knows! I just want Nick to be able to relax and just be a kid for a while. A really long while!

I also sometimes realize how much it impacts the other kids. We wont be going to amusement parks until Nick can go on rides. Would it be more fair to take the other kids and leave Nick behind? I don’t think so. Is it the end of the world not to go to amusement parks? No but when I think of how few times we really have gone it is kinda sad. There are other things I don’t do because it is hard with 4 kids (and really it’s just hard cause one is in a fixator and one is about to turn 2). The kids also have fifth disease and the rash from it seems to be gone until they are out in the sun and then it is red and itchy for a while after.

I guess we’re home bound and a little stir crazy. I took them to Target yesterday and the best part was that I could get them all in one cart. People found the sight of us quite amusing. Big kids, little kid, baby and stuff all in one cart. I counted pushing it around as a workout for me.

I think the moving factor is changing this summer too. We’re in a kind of limbo and I am tired of it. So really I am just complaining which is a waste of time and energy considering the kids are asleep and I could be asleep. Plus I realize I have much to be grateful for. I just wish this summer was easier for my boy and I guess the rest of us too.

Amputation Versus Lengthening Again

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

A Psalm of Life has struck me today as pure brilliance. In that Oprah ah-ha moment sort of way! I guess I always like a footprints image. Maybe because of Nicholas’s unique foot prints. I do like to imagine that others will have an easier time on this particularly unique road through fibular hemimelia becaus we have shared and left our footprints behind.

There’s a conversation on the Facebook Fibular Hemimelia and Limb Lengthening Awareness page that’s taken on a life of it’s own. It’s the amputation versus lengthening question. It’s awful to read some comments which are neither personal experience nor fact based but it is what it is.

What it really is, is a very emotional question. When you have doctors tell you that there is no right choice, it really does not make the decision easier. I’ve said before that this is a choice parents should never have to make. To keep or amputate their childs limb. Never mind that there are likely doctors strongly advocating one option or the other. While they say it’s your choice.

Really, what happened to “there’s no right choice”? Of course a doctor is likely to think the treatment they are familiar with is better. First of all its what they can do. Secondly they have seen their patients thrive. They’ve watched the two year old with her first prosthetic leg taking her first steps or the two year old after her first super ankle surgery and lengthening doing much of the same. Really as hard as it is to believe kids really will be ok either way. They will find their way, accept their difference and live their lives. Thank god for that! It’s not easy but children are amazingly adaptable.

Still there will be moments when as a parent you will have to explain your choice. “You were born this way” or “God made you this way” will only fly for so long. One day you will have to face your child and say “We chose this for you because…”. You will owe them the truth. You can’t make a choice like this about another persons body and not explain it. I’ve had this conversation with Nicholas. He knows that amputation was the alternative. So far he feels we made the right choice. Had we chose amputation would he feel the same way? I think so and hope so.

Once you make the choice you have to make it right for your child. I am sure most people do just that. But we all then become attached to our choice. It’s impossible not to get defensive when I feel someone is suggesting parents who choose lengthening are choosing hell or torture. I try not to. Sadly reading that a child with an over 20cm difference, needing multiple ankle surgeries, and a super knee and an eight plate, who has two toes, etc… reading that this child, my child, could be doing great makes people who chose amputation for a similar or lesser level of deformity get defensive. I get it. Doctors told them it wasn’t possible. But it is.

Just because it’s possible does not mean I think parents who choose amputation are making the wrong choice. Just don’t come to a support group and say lengthening is not an option in such a case. If you were told it wasn’t an option for your child say that share your family’s story. Maybe your footprints will help someone else take heart again!