We’re sitting on the couch. Claire reaches up her dimpled hand and touches the knot just behind her right ear, mostly hidden in her loopy white blond curls. “I have an ouchy.” “Oh baby,” I say, “that’s not an ouchy, that’s your shunt! You have that because you have Spina Bifida. Your shunt helps your head feel better.” “Oh,” she says, “I have a buckle on my head.” Continue reading “coming into awareness”
If you’re following me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, you’ve already seen the bragging, but I have to share this with my blog friends too: Claire crawls now.
She’s been trying for a long time, months, and working on her skills in PT, but all she was really doing was lunging forward, ending up on her belly, scooting backward when she meant to go forward, and barrel rolling. She managed to combine those skills to get pretty much everywhere she wanted to be, but she watches Etta, and she knew crawling was the way to go. (Etta’s not walking yet at 15 months, though she cruises like a champ and could let go and walk right this minute if the thought actually seemed to occur to her.)
Then we got the shunt exactly a week ago, which removed a lot of pressure from her head/spine, and her neurosurgeon told us to fully expect faster progress in the mobility department. Which, I’m not saying correlation equals causation, but it sure seems to have worked. Yesterday was the first day her PT noticed her using her hip flexors, and yesterday she finally got her legs into the crawling equation and took off. She’s got forward motion and is also pulling up to her knees using the furniture.
Yesterday with her braces on and her therapist holding her arms, she also took actual steps, demonstrating she has all the components necessary to walk someday. Which just makes me want to say “HA!” to a certain rehab doctor who, about a year ago, after a VERY short exam, and ignoring our statements that Claire moved her legs intentionally, declared she would never walk. (Meanwhile her orthopedists have long said that she would, so we chose to believe them.)
I’m confident that Claire has had these abilities all along. It just took her a while to make the connections and figure it out, and while she may need a little extra help, she gets there. And she’ll keep getting there.
I’m back from an amazing weekend in NYC helping my sweet sister Jessica shop for a wedding dress. Now it’s back to reality in a big way because Claire the Bear is having surgery tomorrow. She’s having a shunt placed to help treat her hydrocephalus (the fluid that builds up in her head because of her spina bifida), which has gotten to the point of causing fluid to build up in her spine. This is called a syrinx, and because it could compromise her mobility, we have to finally do the surgery this time, almost exactly a year after we first thought we’d be getting it done.
I’m glad we could wait this long. Since she’s older, the procedure is much less risky than it would have been on a tiny baby, and that’s always good news. We trust our surgeon completely and know she will be in the best hands. All you lovely folks: please be praying for or sending positive thoughts her way, whichever you do. Thank you for always cheering Claire on. She will be in the hospital overnight, but it should be a fairly quick recovery, so let’s hope that’s true!
We 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.