Archive for the 'proud' Category

Birthday girl, Laelia, walking without braces!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAELIA!!! She turns 7 years old tomorrow! Here’s the birthday video I did for her last year documenting the years it took her to learn to walk.

Well now we’re doing this walking thing even better!!!

I need to preface these million videos with a few comments. First off, we didn’t think Laelia would ever be able to take steps without her braces. And there was much doubt in the medical community if she would ever take a single step, so ambulating with braces is still a miracle. But without braces? I didn’t really think it was possible. There’s only so many years of trying and failing before you assume she’s just missing those muscles. My hope, truthfully, was in some not-yet invented robotic.

Laelia largely directs her own physical therapy now, so when she showed a bit of trepidatious interest in walking with her KAFOs (full leg braces) unlocked at the knees we of course tried it. And lo and behold she got pretty good at it! Then we decided to try GRAFOs which are ground-reaction AFOs that cover much less of her legs requiring her to do a lot more work. (Dr. vanBosse in Philly had suggested these.) This led to the four month battle with our insurance that still haunts me, but we got them! She was super wobbly her first try in the physical therpist’s office, but she did great!

Next came walking in GRAFOs all by herself using crutches. “Stand back, Mom!”

Then getting so good at it she could go down the ramp and lift her crutches off the ground!

Then one day during physical therapy at home she just shed those crutches all together!

A few days later she was walking like she’d been in GRAFOs all her life!

So we decided, why not? Let’s try walking with NO BRACES! The crutches came back out for balance and she did it!

Then we moved up to walking in just her socks! Not even shoes on!

Then two steps all by herself without a walker!

Then four!!!!!!!!

Then she just held my hand and walked all over the place in nothing but socks! (Had to cover up our foster kid’s face in this one.)

And finally just once (she hasn’t been able to do it since, mostly because of her leg length difference) she walked across the room in nothing but socks while holding on to NOTHING.
(Sorry about the white box, but it’s the only video I have!)

We have so much hope for the future! I think she’ll be walking even better as she gets older! So exciting!!!

I wrote a Children’s book!

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

AlexisBook I wrote a Children’s book! It’s not yet published. If you would like updates about it, or information on how to order it once it becomes available, please join our Facebook group by going here!

Different Like Me is a book about a little girl with arthrogryposis who goes on a grand adventure across the ocean to meet her little brother! Well, if you follow this blog, you already know the story. But you’ve never seen it quite like this! With 25 fully illustrated pages of pure delight your kids will love it! (Oh, wow, I sound like an ad. LOL)

For all of those people who asked me to write a book. THERE! It’s just 25 pages written at a 2nd grader level, but that’s pretty much all I could manage. :)

It was wonderfully brought to life by Lauren Burke from Hey Hey Designs. She does work for blogs and ads and so much more!

This whole project has taken over 18 months to complete, but it has been well worth the effort just to see Roland joyfully freak out every time he sees himself or his sister in cartoon form. :)

Finally a book they love that breaks up the hours and hours and hours of Mo Willems material that gets devoured in our home!

Proceeds will go to support the medical needs of AMC kids (ones not living under my roof :)), orphans with AMC and the families adopting them, and hopefully, if we sell enough, AMCSI!

Also, and foremost, this will promote arthrogryposis awareness! (Or Hall’s Contractures! Or what I’ve been calling it lately just to dumb it down: Multiple Fixed Joints.) Awareness is my main goal, and something I believe in since we need awareness to receive funding, research, insurance approvals, a place at the table, etc.

I have broken up the word arth-ro-gry-po-sis and tested it on six year olds who can now pronounce it! So the hope is that this word becomes easier to say! Laelia and her peers read it fine, even with the big arthrogrywhatsis word in there! In the beginning of the year when Laelia’s reading tutor, Danielle, would come over, she would bring strips of paper with big medical or scientific words on them. Laelia got to keep the strips if she said the word correctly, which was hugely motivating. It was amazing what giant words she could then pronounce once they were read one syllable at a time! Like lepidopterist! It’s lep-i-dop-ter-ist, a.k.a. butterfly scientist! Even my brain goes to mush looking at lepidopterist, but I calm down when it’s lep-i-dop-ter-ist. :)

Please feel free to share our Facebook group far and wide! Thank you!

Video of Laelia

Monday, September 16th, 2013

I created this video of Laelia learning to walk as a present for her 6th birthday. I used all of the videos I had of her where she is moving her lower limbs. And let me just say that there were not many videos of her even moving her lower half for the whole first year there, despite daily physical therapy and stretching. Wow, it’s amazing how far she’s come and how hard she worked. Laelia’s birthday party isn’t for a couple of weeks yet, but tonight she caught me editing, saw it was videos of her and then squealed and demanded to see it. (By the way this is my first video editing job EVER and it was really hard and I cussed a lot and now I hate technology.) So the cat’s out of the bag and I’m just going to make it public.

Enjoy.

Vegas baby!

Monday, July 8th, 2013

This last week was the AMC Conference in Las Vegas! We drove up to see hundreds of AMCers from all over the place! There were over 500 attendees! The drive was six hours. Six. Long. Hours. (Roland slept for maybe five minutes total.) Here’s a cartoon I drew of the drive. ;)

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Hey I only thought about it!

So one big thing I wanted to find out in Vegas was what type of arthrogryposis Roland has. Dr. Me (Myself and I) had already diagnosed him with mild amyoplasia, but he wasn’t “classic” amyoplasia. His limbs are stronger than typical amyoplastic limbs for one thing. He has no inverted shoulders for another. And have you seen his  nice, functional hands with minimal finger contractures? No abducted hips. No downward bent wrists (they are stuck upwards and are unable to go down). Really he presents a lot differently than Laelia despite all their similarities–stork bites on their faces, knee and elbow flexion contractures, clubfeet, etc. Well we would get to meet with the famous Dr. Judith Hall and take advantage of her 40 years of AMC-specific research. But unlike when I met with her about Laelia years ago, this time we had a big question mark by all our kid’s family history. We joked that we wanted to make it hard for her, to test her stuff. But of course Dr. Hall is knowledgeable about all 400+ types and was up for the challenge!

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Dr. Hall (far right) consulting parents all day for free

So ready for it? Roland has… *drum roll*

Arthrogryposis – Distal type 2E

There are 85 cases of Distal type 2E known to Dr. Hall. Super rare. Now I know what you’re all thinking, “Distal? But distal only affects hands and feet! Plus he has lots of muscle loss that’s indicative of amyoplasia!” Yeah that’s where my mind was too. (Okay maybe that was just me. ;)) But apparently this type is very VERY similar to amyoplasia, in fact it probably could be described as a light case of amyoplasia in most ways. So how is it not just “mild amyoplasia?” Well there are 17 types of Distal AMC. Type 1 is just hands and feet. Type 2 is hands and feet and “something else.” So we’re type two because Roland has severe elbow and knee contractures as well as a smaller jaw. But we’re not just type 2, we are type 2E. This type is NOT genetic and has everything in common with amyoplasia, including the big mystery of what causes it. Dr. Hall mentioned that she thinks the difference between amyoplasia and Distal type 2E is just the timing of when whatever caused it… happened. So Roland’s case is caused earlier during development in the womb when different things are growing and Laelia’s classic amyoplasia happens a bit later. (Or vise versa. I can’t remember.) Roland’s AMC was caused when his face was still in development. His asymmetrical face has large eyes, a large nose and small jaw. Dr. Hall said that classic amyoplasia babies like Laelia have “perfect little faces,” but Distal 2E kids have Roland’s exact face. I was told in no uncertain terms that that is NOT a “Russian” or “Ukrainian” nose. They don’t get that big at his young age! Haha! To give you an example here’s another little boy who was diagnosed with the exact same thing on the same day.

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They also have very similar personalities!

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They’re like twins, am I right!

This is A.J. His parents started the Raise Your Glass foundation! I contributed a writing piece to their efforts to celebrate Dr. van Bosse and raise money for Shriners Children’s Hospital a while ago. Crazy small world!

Okay so we got a diagnosis. Now to the rest of the conference!

Oh actually one more thing I wanted to share. We saw a gal at conference who was born in the 60′s and who walked around in Laelia’s exact braces. It’s rare to see KAFOs that are one piece (no joints for knees) and there she was with Laelia’s exact gait too. And I realized that there was a small part of me that held fast to Dr. Fathead’s words from long ago. He told me that he would not do anything to help straighten my daughter’s legs out because “once she hits 60 pounds she won’t be able to stand and will crumple under her own weight.” He implied this would happen with braces. Okay I just looked it up and found where I blogged about it. To quote my grieving self from February 2008:

We switched orthopedic doctors today (Friday). This new one also does not believe Laelia will walk either, but actually explained the physicality behind that belief. Whatever went wrong inside me, made it so that her muscles didn’t grow normally. The doctor said her AMC is like Polio, we don’t have a cure and don’t understand why she doesn’t work right. So even if she were able to be straightened out, she doesn’t have the muscle to walk. Even if we did a muscle transplant, the muscle wouldn’t work. Even if we could get her to stand, she would not be able to do so once she got to be around 60lbs since she won’t be able to hold up her own weight and her muscles will not grow with her. She also does not have the arm strength to use a walker or wheelchair. She’s not quadriplegic since she can twitch fingers and slightly bend elbows. Once again we find ourselves crying out to God and stunned with grief at the thought of a little girl who won’t dance on her wedding day or who can’t go to the bathroom without assistance.

Excuse me while I go back in time and cold cock some doctors. Someone have a drink I can throw in their faces really dramatically? Because… really doctors? Really?! Amyoplasic limbs “will not grow with her?” Ugh. Here’s a science lesson for you for free, whatever anterior horn cells developed into muscle WILL grow and will grow large as they compensate for missing muscle in amyoplasia kids. Laelia didn’t have certain muscles until we worked them (something you told us not to bother with) and she couldn’t do that until she was in a position to stand… a position you refused to put her in! Boo on you! Ugh. I remember asking so many questions that appointment and just getting shot down until all hope was gone. (And he took away hope that my girl would walk down the aisle or dance at her wedding! Watch this video taken at conference with her little boyfriend and tell me she won’t! I dare you!)

Okay so now I logically know that the whole 60 pound thing is bunk, but there’s a small part of me that unconsciously worried that 15 pounds from now, when Laelia reaches the magical 60, she would crumple. This doctor obviously had never met an adult with AMC before! And I’m glad for the opportunity to face those unconscious fears I didn’t know I still had! Plus when Laelia saw adult leg braces just like hers she got excited, “That’s a grown up like me! She walks and does grown up things with braces like mine!” That’s why we do AMC conferences y’all!

Okay onto more pictures!

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Right before we were going to head out the door Roland made a mess. Typical.

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These are my children back before the six hour drive, back when they were sane.

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Roland’s first 4th of July! Check out that shameless American flag shirt for my new American!

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Tracey, Deborah, Nick and Keely.

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Scarman posing with Laelia and Ryan. He hadn’t seen them since they were both in wheelchairs!

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Yes we put baby in the closet, but in our defense it was a giant walk-in closet and we all actually slept after he was out of our beds!

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Lily, Laelia and her boyfriend Ryan.

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This is how Roland sits in a chair. *chair fail*

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We hadn’t seen Tyler since Reenee came out to San Diego for a visit and some PT goodness.

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Laelia, Elliot and Ryan

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Ileana, Tracey and the kiddos

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Ani lovin’. They both ran into her arms. Roland likes to hang.

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The San Diego crowd!

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These two…

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Laelia and Lucas. She’s tickling his feet using the invention to lift her arm that he inspired when he bit his sleeve to lift his arm!

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Laelia and Daddy

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How to carry a Laelia.

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How to carry a Roland.

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How to freak out your mom when she’s distracted taking pictures. (Have your dad lower you down above her head until you’re in the shot! I about jumped out of my seat!)

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Fall into Lily #376

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Crowded around the iPhone

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The kids doing Ring Around the Rosie for the Talent Show. Roland started walking three months ago, Laelia (without crutches) nine months ago and Ari (far right) five months ago.

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Fall into Angie #385 (What? My kids like to fall into people!)

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Here’s one of Laelia falling into the dads when they were not ready for her.

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Here’s one of her flat out tackling Ward to the ground. Where is her mother? Oh right. Taking pictures. ;)

We went to sessions on genetics, adoption support, mom support (for me), dad support (for Charles), alternative therapies and more! We had to take long 20+ minute walks just one way to get to the main conference area from our hotel room and both kids walked the whole time! Then we came home and I’ve spent all today avoiding unpacking. So I drew another cartoon! (Actual conversation where Charley and I both described each other’s jobs.)

unpacking

Click to enlarge.

I hate unpacking.

 

Laelia climbs down by herself!

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Tonight as I left Laelia to brush her teeth and wash her face (and then prayed she wouldn’t just goof off the whole time as usual) I sat down exhausted and caught up on some email. Roland came toddling in and said to me, “Lay lee la down.” He looked back towards the bathroom and then looked at me expectantly. “Yes Laelia is brushing her teeth and I’ll put you both down for bed soon,” I said absently. He said, “Kay,” and walked away. A second later he came back, “Ba da da! Na down!” He really is trying to communicate something, and usually I would get up and take his hand and he’d walk me somewhere and show me what he wants, but it’s the end of the night and I’m tired so I just say, “Okay Roland wait a minute,” and go back to reading. A third time Roland says urgently, “Down Mama! Down da Mama! Layla!” I am only catching the “down” part clearly so I ask him if he wants to sit down and he says no. I ask him if he wants his doggy to come down off the piano where hubby had placed it. Roland says no and then thinks about it and in a cute little voice says, “Ummmmmmmm. Da.” (Da=Russian for yes) Okay then, “I’ll get your doggy down before bed, but let me finish these first.”

A second later Laelia says with a big grin, “Hi Mama!” And my mouth says, “Where did you come from?!!” Before my brain realizes that all those Roland warnings were about Laelia attempting to get down from a very tall chair all by herself and unsupervised.

Now don’t get me wrong, we had been practicing this. But she had never shown an interest in trying it without a lot of motherly hovering.

Plus this had happened the night before so it’s not like I had a lot of confidence. ;)

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I don’t know if she is really stuck or if she just wanted some attention. :)

So getting off a chair without bending your knees is a very hard thing to do. (Remember Laelia has a bit longer in the straight leg braces that do not bend before her plates come out and she can bend her knees again.) And how she does it is totally impressive! She grabbed her daddy and me to show us exactly what she did. This video is the second time she’s ever done it independently.

 

 

Husband’s one year donation anniversary

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Today, March 20th 2013, marks the one year anniversary since my husband saved the lives of several people. He didn’t jump into a burning building, throw himself on a land mine or even wrestle a bear. He just laid there. :)

He donated his kidney to a stranger, setting off a kidney donation chain. The stranger, a lady in her 50s, will now live to see her grandchildren. And her husband who wanted to donate to her, but wasn’t a match, was able, in exchange for my husband’s kidney, to “pay it forward” and give another person a life-saving kidney. And so on.

I created a little PR cartoon to mark the occasion.

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Click to enlarge.

 

#1. What if something happens to your other kidney? Altruistic donors  (people who give to strangers) go to the top of the kidney transplant list if anything goes wrong with their remaining kidney. They are given top priority. They rarely need it. (Says our medical team.)

#2. Will that shorten your life? No. Actually altruistic donors live longer than the average person. (Says our donation coordinator.) Having one or two kidneys doesn’t matter at all. If your kidney is going to go, usually they both go at once, and people who can donate are healthy to begin with. So it’s a lot like saying, “Healthy people live longer than the average person.” And your surgical risk is the same as any other surgery that you would subject yourself to at one point in your life or another. (Our daughter is looking at her seventh surgery later this year for pin removal in her knees. The risk is 0.0032%.)

#3. I would but I don’t want to give up my glass of wine or drinking on my birthday or… you know… my friend Mr. Alcohol. You don’t have to stop drinking, or make any major lifestyle adjustments with one kidney. They did suggest no cage fighting. I shot a look at hubby at that point in the discussion and laughed my head off. But of course binge drinking is bad for you in lots of ways.

#4. But what if someday his kids need a kidney? Well kids don’t wait for kidneys as we learned. Adults do. Kids are at the top of the list. “They’re covered,” said our social worker when we were asking questions. It was the top question on my list even though only one of our children is biologically related to us. It turned out not to be an issue.

#5. What if a family member needed that kidney and you wasted it on a stranger? Waiting for a family member to maybe need a kidney when lots of people are right now dying is like saving your fire extinguisher for a possible home fire while watching your neighbor’s house burn. Actually it’s worse than that because you have a much greater statistical chance of having a fire than ever needing a kidney. There were around 17,000 people who needed a kidney in 2009 and around 362,000 fires (source and source). Let’s put it this way, there are 1,000 cases of lightening striking people a year. (Source.) Say every time lightening struck you, 17 of your neighbors needed kidneys. That’s significant but not a ton of people.  In fact I called up the National Kidney Disease Education Program and was told 1.9% of the population are diagnosed with kidney disease, but of those people the number who will benefit from a donation is even smaller but they do not have the statistic for it.  They sent me to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dada and Statistics branch at which point I realized I don’t need an exact number for some research paper and was happy to just say on my personal blog “it’s not likely your family will need a kidney that only you can provide.” Let’s speculate that you have less than a 1% chance of needing to save that kidney for a rainy day. Math was a major factor in my husband’s decision to donate.

#6. What did it cost? It was free. Everything from the hospital stay, recovery, doctor’s visits, parking, etc. Hubster’s work even had accommodations for altruistic donors and we didn’t need to dip into his vacation time for recovery.

#7. Any regrets? One. My husband was disappointed that he didn’t have a cool scar. Since it’s a laparoscopic surgery the recovery time is easy and the scarring minimal. They squeeze that little sucker out your belly button so my C-section surgery totally beats up any of my poor husband’s surgery stories. Hubbers went shirtless to a pool party afterwards and no one noticed. But if I lifted up my shirt you would all wonder how all of my guts did not fall out of this giant incision.

Hubby: “My tummy was sore for a while there.” Me: “Oh were you sore? Oh poor thing! Were you unable to climb stairs? Stuck in the hospital for days? BREASTFEEDING??? No?????!”  (Owned.)

#8. I want to help, but isn’t it enough to let them just harvest my organs after I die? They need live donors. Desperately. Becoming a donor after death is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but to donate your kidney you have to die in a very specific way (I heard a doctor lament, “Can I get a good drowning case?”) and even then the kidney of a deceased person only lasts half as long as a live person. (Source.) A kidney from a live donor, according to Nicholas Crace’s doctor, “performs better, works quicker and lasts longer”. (Source.) Who is Nicholas Crace? He’s an 83 year old altruistic kidney donor. “Within a week I was bicycling and mowing the lawn,” he claims. To which I want to say, “Really?! My husband was playing video games and watching movies!” He was mowing the lawn, hubsters! (Owned again.)

People are suffering and dying and need someone with no benefit to themselves to step forward. Lots and lots of those people actually. And we’d love to help you do it!