Thursday, June 11, 2009


The room is painted to resemble an ocean. Seaweed, fish and bubbles fill the bluish walls but I fail to see a single electric eel that could send a jolt strong enough through one's body to make the bones visible to others like in so many cartoons.

There Thing 1 stands, hugging the rotated table of the X-ray machine. The business end of the camera shines a white light that creates a shadow of crosshairs on her back.

There's a loud thump and click and a flash. Her spine -- in shades of black, gray and white -- appear on the imagining screen.

This is not part of the hospital I expected to see Monday.

After the doctor's initial excitement over the continued rash-free appearance of Thing 1's skin, she started finding other things.

A shoulder noticeably higher than the other.

A thumb that didn't bend over as far as maybe it should.

Fingers that didn't fold down as much as might be possible.

An arm that didn't seem to be completely straight when locked.

"And nothing hurts?" the doctor asked.

Thing 1 shook her mess of blonde hair.

"No," she added. This is a rarity -- a direct answer to a doctor's question without my prompting.

As we continue to taper off medications, the doctor says, she's concerned that maybe there is something else -- arthritis, for example -- hiding underneath the juvenile myositis that the pills and shots have been beating up.

"Let's get some X-rays," she said.

I will not panic.

I've heard doctors be as wrong as they are right too many times on their first guess, and guessing -- I've learned -- is a part of their job.

The physical and occupational therapy people come in before we head to X-ray and put her through the usual drills.

Lift this. Extend that. Stand. Sit. Bend. Kick.

I run them through the doctor's latest suspicions.

"Most of us can't bend our fingers that way," one said. Moreover, she shows me that she can't.

Thing 1's arm looks fine as do the length of her legs, she said.

"Most of us have one shoulder higher than the other, hers just seems more pronounced," she said. She has her bend forward, once, twice, hold it, so her fingers as well as her eyes can access her back.

"Your daughter's been growing a lot. Parts of her body may not have caught up the other parts yet," she said.

Then the therapists run through their usual findings. Some of Thing 1's muscles and joints are tight. No worse than before, but certainly not better. Thing 1 may never complain about pain but she does complain about work. In this case, the stretching I'm always telling her she should do or the braces she is supposed to wear on her ankles while she sleeps.

"You must do stretches. You must wear your night boots," I want them to chant in unison until it is imprinted as deeply into my 9-year-old's brain as the jingles for online computer courses and "As Seen on TV" gadgets my girl likes to sing aloud.

They do better. They threaten.

"If this doesn't change, you know what the next step is?"

(I know and I nod because I have told Thing 1 this many times before. But now the people with the stopwatches, the special devices to measure range of motion and access to the proper medical forms are saying it. Forcefully. To her face.)

"You'll have to get casts on both your ankles. That means no dance, no soccer, no nothing for weeks, maybe months. You'll need to go around on crutches."

I've mentally drawn a grid to use to check off all the wrist bends and hamstring stretches she'll need to do over the next four months to prove her worth to the therapists. I see a column of white boxes staring at me.

It's the X-ray of Thing 1's spine.

"There's a very slight bend up there at the top. See that," says the technician. "When you have her bend over and follow her spine up her back, it's not even noticeable. See."


"So what do you think?" I ask.

"Oh, I see a lot worse in here every day. This is so slight, the X-ray from this angle is the only way to spot it."

We are told we can leave.


  1. No stress there.

    (head exploding)

  2. I swear I held my breath until I got to the end of your post.


    Whew. Nothing like a little suspense to take 10 years off a parent's life. Thing 1 seemed a bit unfazed - did the threat of casts sink in?

    Btw, when we were going through Princess' hypoglycemic episodes and I was harping on her about her diet, when the doctor said the same thing, she absorbed it like it was the wisest thing she ever heard. Must be all the diplomas on the wall.

  3. Did she GET IT get it? Because you had me in suspsense, too!

    On a smaller scale, if you figure out a way to get a child to actually do that which they absolutely must do, you need to bust a book out detailing that technique. I'll buy at least two, and then recommend them to everyone. Title suggestion - Never Repeat Yourself Again...again...again...

  4. Okay - forget teaching abstinence or contraception in school. If they would only teach the amount of stress/worry/anxiety a parent has from the moment of conception, that would scare off any prom night follies.

    Also, you might want to find a kid yoga class for Thing 1 this summer. Seriously, it will help and be fun. Stretches are much cooler when called "flip the dog" and "wheel" (wrists), "rag doll" (back and hamstrings), "downward dog" (calves) and "crow" (for fun and to show up your old man).

    Keep us posted. You and yours have our thoughts, empathy, sympathy, support, Yuenglings, whatever.

  5. I, too, breathed a sigh of relief at the end of your post. I didn't realize you had me holding my breath....

  6. Scary moments, my friend. Scary.

    Do those stretches, Thing 1. Please . . .

  7. Wow! I do not remember holding my breath until I realized I had not taken a breath since the beginning of the post,
    I think it should better than you thought????

  8. I swear, I aged 30 years having to look at cross-sections of my daughter's brain. And I aged another year reading this.

  9. Thinking of you...

    We used to use a Chicago hospital for my son's cardiac care. Until insurance said...notsomuch.

  10. All in all, not so horrible. And the techs and stuff were right - a lot of people are slightly misproportioned and the growth at her age creates uneveness as well. High five for Thing 1! And do those stretches :)

  11. Oh... I am so relieved for you...

  12. The Yoga suggestion - yes! Pursue that even if you have to angle it with "Let's go shopping for some cool yoga clothes!" (I know, not your idea of fun but hey, the "proper" clothes enticed me to try golf - I was in it for the shopping, hated golf!)

  13. Ya gotta tell us the good news at the beginning, just so we don't get too worried. Or holding our breath, as some of the previous commenters said already.


    ::drink beer::

  14. Oh, good Lord. I'm sitting here with my heart pounding for both (all) of you.

    Sending the best possible - and stretchiest possible - vibes and prayers your way.


    ~ Anna

  15. Get that kid on a rack and start stretching her out, NOW....

  16. Whew man. You had me freaking out the whole time.

  17. Yoga sounds fun and theraputic for both of you! She can do her stretches with the funny sounding poses and you can do yours with the funny looking people!

  18. I could never have enough strength to be a parent.

  19. Always a good thing to remember when dealing with medical specialists - "when your only tool is a hammer, all problems look a lot like a nail."

  20. also forgot to add - Yoga is a great way to help your daughter recognize the natural and developmental asymmetries in her body. It doesn't matter where they came from. It only matters that they don't create other problems for her as she grows.

    I've been practicing and teaching adults and kids for many years, and I have seen some amazing therapeutic results that comes from working with the right teachers. I avoided shoulder surgery and managed to completely recover from a destroyed wrist using Yoga as my primary therapy.

    If it gives you any comfort - after having my completely shattered from a car accident, I am still more flexible in that wrist than my husband who has the tightest joints I have ever seen. His tightness and asymmetries are all natural so your girl may be in good company. He hates stretching too.

  21. K... that makes my heart hurt. It sucks. I'm sorry.

    Would I be bold if I said I'd keep her in our prayers?

  22. Wow. So happy everything turned out alright.

    Thoughts are with you.

  23. Glad things are okay. stretch, baby stretch. Try yoga?

  24. You tell her that I have one ear that's higher than the other so I look like a goofball in glasses, and I can't fix that with bends and stretches.

    In all seriousness, I'm glad they told you to leave. I know from experience, that being able to go home is pretty much the best feeling EVER.

  25. Its amazing how u write and I feel like I'm right there with u!

    Like others have said... Maybe a yoga class to give things a new twist?

    Thanks fir sharing this journey with us :)


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