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.
My Uncool Past
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