Claire Bear: an update

IMG_4053It’s been a while since I updated all of Claire Bear’s fans on how she’s doing these days. Most readers know that she has spina bifida, that she had surgery just days after birth, and that we’ve been sort of waiting to see how much her spinal defect will affect her.

The short answer is: she’s doing great. She’s a chilled out, happy girl who is a bit of a ham. She can charm any stranger with her bright eyes, big smile, and penchant for waving, giggling, and clapping. She is also a very observant little person, and seems to constantly be watching and figuring the world out. Even though she’s not into eating solid food yet, she loves to swipe pieces of it off her sister’s high chair tray, and before she got moved into the older room at daycare, would sit on the mat and swipe toys from smaller babies as they crawled by. She even figured out, on her own, from observing Etta, how to get from sitting unsupported down to her belly so she can roll around to wherever she wants to go. Where I used to be able to count on finding her wherever I left her, now she’s known to roll out of her room and down the hall. They even call her “the mechanic” at daycare, because she likes to roll under all the cribs and appears to be inspecting and fixing them.

Medically, she is doing really well also. She had a looooong day at the spina bifida clinic yesterday, and we saw rehab, urology, and orthopedics. Ortho continues to be impressed with how much function and sensation she appears to have in her legs considering the location and severity of her spinal defect, and the good news from urology is that we don’t have to start using catheters or anything at this point (bladder issues are very very commonly associated with spina bifida). Rehab, formerly a sore spot for us since one doc declared “she will never walk” after a very poor examination even after we said that she supports her weight on her legs for short periods, went OK too. We actually got to show the doctor how she can stand with support, and we got our first prescription for some AFOs, essentially her first pair of leg braces, which we hope will support her ankles and knees and help her learn to crawl, stand, and walk.

She’s been going to physical therapy for a couple of weeks now, and we are so happy to finally have that started. The therapist turns out to be the older sister of a friend from high school, and I have to say I just love her. Despite a very teary first session in which Claire *wailed* the entire time (her stranger anxiety has really ramped up lately– she also recently wailed at ZaZa’s, a local pizza joint, when the most grandmotherly, sweet-looking woman in the world dared to approach her), Claire has realized her PT is pretty cool and has neat toys, and now only cries when tired or frustrated with an activity.

Because Claire needs 3 PT sessions per week, 3 OT sessions per week, and now we’re talking about adding in speech therapy to help with her oral issues, we are working on getting her into a developmental preschool where she could receive all these therapies on site. With another one year old to wrangle, coordinate care for, and generally deal with, taking her to and attending that many sessions per week myself would really just be a logistical nightmare, and we’re so thankful this is even an option, that I could drop her off and know she was getting care from folks who don’t have a single issue accommodating her needs. Much as we LOVE LOVE LOVE our current daycare, the fact that she’s the only kid in her room who can’t feed herself or take a sippy cup is a bit of an issue. Even better, the preschool takes siblings, too, so if I get a job in the fall, Etta could join her. And the best news of all? Claire’s Medicaid TEFRA, a benefit she qualifies for because of her disability, for which we pay an income based premium, which covers basically all of her care not covered by the insurance we get through my husband’s work, would completely cover the cost of the preschool for Claire. AMAZING!

So, now I’m on the hunt for cute shoes that fit over AFOs (I’m thinking a sweet pair of mint green Vans might be my choice), and just generally excited that our sweet girl is finally getting the help she needs to make some progress in the mobility department. She’s starting to realize that Etta can do things she can’t, and it has her raring to go!


5 Replies to “Claire Bear: an update”

  1. Finding shoes to fit over AFOs can be a bit of a pain, sadly. I’m not sure if your PT gave any suggestions but you want the widest ones you can find. A lot of my patients have little tiny crocs because they’re flexible and cool for the summer months. Not the most fashionable, so I’ll be interested to see what you find that works!


  2. So happy that sweet girl is doing well! Will be happy to answer any speech therapy questions y’all might have!


  3. I work with kids in AFOs all the time…agreed that you should look for WIDE shoes, preferably ones that you can open all the way down. (Some of the older kids really like the cool looking Skechers with the zig-zag velcro…very easy to get on and off over braces). And be sure to take out the sock liner for a little extra room, too, since it’s only there for looks. Plus side, she’ll have braces on both sides, so you don’t have to buy 2 pairs of shoes in different sizes!


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