this is what spina bifida looks like

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When we found out that one of our unborn baby twins had something called Spina Bifida, I knew almost nothing about SB. I didn’t know if the doctors were telling me my baby would never walk or talk, or if she would suffer constant pain, or even what she would look like. Between my pediatrician husband and genetic counselors, I quickly got a fuller picture of what SB meant, medically, but I remember a very specific hunger for images of what SB would literally look like. In the midst of  what was a grieving process to accept and understand our new normal, I sought out pictures of people, particularly kids with SB. And more than anything else, these images comforted me. I remember being thoroughly relieved to find that people with SB were just like any other sort of people: beautiful, silly, happy, sad, and completely themselves. After seeing some actual images of actual people with SB living life in the world, I could move away from clinical distance from this new SB reality and embrace my growing bond with Baby B– our Claire, as a full and complete person, not a diagnosis or a disability.  Continue reading “this is what spina bifida looks like”

A Claire Bear update: neurosurgery on Monday

IMG_3548We just got back from a visit with our (much loved) neurosurgeon, and based on new information in last week’s MRI, we have decided in consultation with her and another neurosurgeon she asked to give a second opinion, that it’s time for Claire to get a shunt placed to treat her hydrocephalus. The lay explanation is, due to her spinal defect and chiari malformation, Claire’s cerebral spinal fluid doesn’t drain from her head and spine properly, causing fluid to build up in her head (aka hydrocephalus). While she has had the hydrocephalus from the start, we and our surgeon chose to take a conservative approach instead of operating when she was a wee baby, because surgery is always risky, because the risk of infection and complications is greater in younger babies, and because clinically, she was having no symptoms or problems from the hydrocephalus other than a big head as a result of the fluid buildup.

However, the MRI we got last week showed that not only are the ventricles in her head very large, indicating a lot of fluid has built up there, but also she has developed a syrinx, or pocket of fluid within her spinal cord. This has the potential to cause her to have problems with her arms and legs, and given the great strides and progress she has made mobility wise, and the hope we have for continued progress, we do not want to risk this syrinx compromising her physical abilities in any way.

It is for these reasons that we’ve agreed to have the shunt placed on Monday morning. We are of course a little disappointed that she has to have neurosurgery, but we are ultimately confident that this is the right time, and hopeful that taking this step now will give her the greatest chance to achieve all she can developmentally. She’ll stay one night in the hospital, and then should be back to her normal activities within a week or two. Thanks for always cheering Claire on– her internet fan club means more to us than you can know.