Friday, December 26, 2014

sweet feet

We have been busy addressing Joseph's right foot this month. For those who haven't met him and do not know his medical condition, he was born with clubbed feet. He was given one surgery in China to address his left foot, but nothing was done to correct his right foot, which turns in. But his biggest issue is that he walks on his toe with that foot. I have to tell you that nothing limits this child physically. He is, undoubtedly, the most physical one in our family (okay...well maybe a tie with Madi), and he amazes us with his sheer determination.

When we were in  China, we were given these pictures of Joseph that were taken after the surgery of his left foot. The look on his face and sadness in his eyes brought tears to us. Can you imagine these children enduring painful surgeries without the love of parents to help them through it? We thanked God when we found out that he went through this surgery at the same time as his best friend in the orphanage. We were (somewhat) relieved to know that--at least--Joseph and Emmett had each other to lean on.

On December 11th, Jimmy and I took Joseph for an evaluation with a well known surgeon at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, which is fairly local. This surgeon proposed an Achilles tendon lengthening surgery called z-plasty. In this case, a surgeon makes a z-shaped cut in the tendon, stretches it to a pre-specified length, and then sutures the tendon back together. This procedure allows the greatest control over the length and enlargement. We really liked this surgeon and we definitely felt confident in him.

Then, on December 17th, we drove across the state to Tampa for a second opinion and met with a surgeon at Shriner's Children's Hospital. He also recommended Achilles tendon lengthening surgery, but through a procedure called percutaneous tendon lengthening, where the surgeon makes several cuts in the tendon. The human body can repair these tears naturally with the production of more muscle tissue, which will add overall length to the tendon. But this type of surgery does not allow the surgeon to have much control over the degree of lengthening. 

Both hospitals took x-rays and verified that Joseph's hips and spine are in alignment (we learned that sometimes hip dysplasia is common in children with clubbed feet), so that was a praise-worthy discovery. After much contemplation, Jimmy and I agreed that we felt more comfortable being closer to home, and since similar surgeries were proposed, we were leaning towards the local surgeon. So much so that we scheduled surgery in early January at Joe DiMaggio.

But last Sunday, I reached out to our friend, Jen, in the physical therapy field. She was one of our *key* people who reviewed Joseph's file medically, and we value her input tremendously. She threw me for a loop when she strongly urged me to have an evaluation from someone in the physical therapy field. She simply wanted us to investigate an alternative method of correction and suggested that we take a look to see if there was a chance to avoid surgery from that perspective. Though we'd already set a course in motion, I agreed that I would talk to another friend, who is in the pediatric physical therapy field, and was also one of our reliable file reviewers for Joseph. I sent my friend an email, and let it rest.

The next morning, I woke in somewhat of a panic attack mentally preparing for this impending surgery for Joseph. Even though it seems to be a routine procedure, the thought of surgery is never easy for parents, is it?

We got ourselves ready and headed to the park with a group of friends. And guess who happened to show up? My friend and physical therapist who I'd been corresponding with via email! Can you believe? Tell me that's not the Holy Spirit in action! Vicki spent a good twenty minutes with Joseph, using all kinds of testing methods, and I was amazed at her assessment.

First of all, she could tell that Joseph's foot issues began in utero. She believes--wholeheartedly--that there is no reason to rush into surgery right now! She totally feels that his condition can be completely improved by retraining the brain. I swear his gait improved after the short time that she worked with him! Vicki taught me three exercises to begin right away at home, and I cannot even tell you how relieved I feel to at least give this a try. I seriously could have cried! I came home and called Jimmy. Then I sent an email to our surgeon of choice to cancel the surgery for now.

The phone rang about noon-time on Christmas Eve, and I was quite surprised to hear the upbeat voice of our surgeon on the other end! He was calling to say that he'd received our email. After I bent his ear for a good five minutes, he totally supported this decision to try. Does he think it will work? Not necessarily, but he was in agreement that it is not yet an urgent situation, and that we can always resort to surgery down the road if necessary. He even offered to write Joseph's prescription for PT!

Can I get an Amen on that?

So, for now, the Good Lord has thrown us a "Plan B" for our son. And we're gonna take it.

What a beautiful Christmas gift.  Thank you, sweet Jesus.

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