It seems the 23rd was a significant day for many of my blogging friends. Several birthdays, an engagement, and of course, Easter. For us, it is the one year mark of Reid's amputation. Last year on March 23rd, he began the day with two feet and ended the day with one.
I remembered watching a sitcom shortly before this event. Although what they were talking about was completely unrelated to a real amputation, the guy had said something like..."if you knew your leg was going to get cut off tomorrow, would you sit around and feel sorry for yourself or spend the day running, jumping and doing awesome kicks?" So we spent the day before the surgery running, jumping and doing awesome kicks. Actually, Reid could hardly walk. But we spent the day in Cincinnati and went to the aquarium and all kinds of fun kid stuff.
We were hoping Reid wouldn't learn to walk before the amputation so he wouldn't know what he was missing and so he wouldn't have to re-learn to walk later. As luck would have it, he took his first steps just five days before the big event. He was almost 14 months old and had been cruising for quite sometime, but with his leg length discrepancy, his balance was a little off.
We all dealt with the amputation surprisingly well. There were a lot of prayers said in our behalf. I'm sure our strength was a direct result of prayers. I kept waiting to have a breakdown. The week of, the day of, the trip to the hospital, sending him off to surgery, when I saw him afterwards. No breakdown. I held together well. I was surprised at how laid back I was when I sent him off with the surgeon. As I should have been because all went smoothly. It helped that he'd gone under before...remember, Halloween - swallowing the straight pin. The whole staff at the children's hospital was fantastic. I didn't take any pictures. I meant to, but seeing a little one year old in a hospital gown and a HUGE cast all drugged up was kind of a sad sight. I thought I wouldn't really want to remember that part of it. But now I wish I had a picture.
Reid was recovering at lightening speed. The surgery was Friday. He came home Saturday. We took him to church on Sunday. Then there was Monday...
Spencer was working at the university and going to school at night. He had with him our only car. I wasn't planning on going anywhere. I took the boys on a wagon ride. We were playing in the back yard. I was chatting with neighbors over the fence...a picture perfect evening. It was time to go in and clean up for bed. I scooped Reid up and his cast fell off...with no foot or ankle to keep it on, it could easily slip. I freaked out. I was dealing well, but I certainly wasn't ready to see the stump...swollen and covered with black stitches and dried blood from the surgery. Reid's stump was barely held together with millions of stitches trying to make skin stick together where it just wasn't natural. It was horribly gruesome.
I was alone. Spencer had the car and I couldn't get a hold of him. I spent hours on the phone trying to get a doctor to tell me what to do. I luckily had some gauze and tape and ace bandages in my cabinet. Not much, but enough to get Reid through the night. And so I had to re-bandage my screaming kid alone. He was in so much pain and didn't want to hold still. And wrapping it made him cry harder. I hated that. I could hardly stomach looking at it...plus I hate hurting my kid. It was miserable. The lowest point of the whole event. I had to re-bandage it at least once a day for the next four weeks. It got easier...especially as the stitches started falling out and his stump started to heal. He was in a lot less pain.
He got his first prosthetic just a couple months later and learned to walk in record time. He was running around by July.
Now it's such a normal part of life. Who knew phrases like, "where's your leg?", "go get your foot", or "no stumps on the dinner table" would regularly fill our home.
I think the hardest part of the whole ordeal (besides the cast falling off) was actually hearing the news. When Reid was born, Spencer noticed right away that he was missing a toe, but he otherwise looked normal. As we inspected his leg and foot the next few days in the hospital, We could see some slight differences, but it was hard to tell on such a tiny little thing (if you call 9 lbs 11 oz tiny). The doctors at the hospital gave us a false sense of security. They told us he was just missing a toe. One leg looks smaller...but it must have been cramped in the womb...it will catch up. They referred us to a pediatric orthopedist anyway.
At about 5 days old, we had a visit with the orthopedist who informed us Reid had fibular hemimelia and that amputation would almost certainly be in his future. That was it...the hardest part of the whole affair. As parents, the worst case scenarios kept racing through our heads and keeping us up at night. How hard would it be to have your child's foot amputated? How awful would it be when he got made fun of by kids at school? Would he ever "make the team?" He had no fibula. His foot was unable to stabilize on his leg. His foot was small and missing a toe as well as the whole ray of bones associated with that toe. His leg was shorter and would become even more significantly shorter as time went on.
Reid also got to visit a geneticist. I loved that. I remember the genetics chapter in junior high biology. I am sure I said aloud..."when will I ever need this?" That was the time. I actually used my junior high knowledge of genetics. I found the genetic aspects completely fascinating.
We had a couple more visits with the orthopedist that year. Spencer and I did a lot of reading up on it throughout the year and decided to amputate sooner rather than later. It was a weird decision to make as a parent. The doctor was surprised at our eagerness to amputate. Most parents can't get past it and make that decision. Some parents wait until their child's teenage years so they can make their own decision. Those kids tend to have a harder time adapting to the amputation. The sooner the better. I will never regret amputating so young. Reid has no memory of having two feet. Although he recognizes he is different...he doesn't know life any other way. He has had a fear of doctors ever since.
He is a well adjusted and very happy kid. This spring is the first time I've seen any disappointment in him with regards to his leg. He feels a little left out when we all leave the house in flip flops and he can't wear them. He gets over it quickly.
Of all the problems and scenarios you ever dream up having to experience as a parent with your children, this is one that never would have crossed my mind. I never expected to have a child that wears a prosthetic leg. I was completely shocked and unprepared. I also have never thought much about what the parents go through when dealing with this kind of situation...my thoughts tend to go towards the child. I have learned more about prosthetic legs then I ever thought I would. I do find it fascinating.
I am so grateful for modern science and knowledgeable doctors. I look forward to a time when Reid will run again on his own two feet.