News. Of the unexpected variety.
Have you ever wondered why "unexpected" news is normally either really good or really bad? It's very rare that something I consider "unexpected news" is simply MEH. Like sometimes gallons of milk go on sale, which is always unexpected, but I don't really consider that news. And sometimes news happens, like I get the boys' final semester grades, but I don't really find any of them unexpected.
The unexpected stuff has, for me at least, tended to cause either great joy or great stress. Unfortunately we've had more of the latter than the former recently.
And maybe stress isn't the right word for this. Maybe these recent healthcare related bits of news are more a hassle than stress. Things could certainly be worse. I know this. I remind myself of it almost daily. Things have, in our very own past, BEEN worse. So yeah, maybe this is just the way life is. We have some very normal and kind of boring days with cuddles and homemade chicken soup and we have some days with letters from the school and doctors appointments bringing "unexpected news".
And we get through both of these kinds of days. And we learn and grow and say some prayers for all our blessings. Maybe I should stop thinking of these things as "unexpected" and just view them as THINGS that belong to our family and that we get the opportunity to deal with in the most constructive way we can.
That's certainly more comforting. New motto - no more "unexpected news"... only OPPORTUNITIES for growth.
So here's the scoop...
A few months ago we got an email from the school about their annual Scoliosis screening. They were looking for volunteers. I paid the email almost zero attention. I forgot when it was. It didn't register with me at all.
Then Quinn came home and said he was flagged for a follow-up evaluation. Hmmm... that's interesting, but still not something that I did anything about. I didn't even hit up the internet to look for information about Scoliosis. Just wasn't bothered by this OPPORTUNITY at all. In fact, I don't think it even hit the "news" part of my consciousness. I think I likely blew it off as an error and something the follow-up would clear up for us.
Then Quinn went to the follow-up and came home saying they saw the same thing. He has a curve in his back and his left shoulder is higher than his right. Well then... It just so happened that the day after this second evaluation was Spencer's 14 year old well-child appointment. This all happened right after Thanksgiving. I asked the doctor, during Spencer's visit, about Quinn's OPPORTUNITY and she said she wanted to see him herself, had an opening in the afternoon, and we would go from there. Well then...
Then Quinn saw the doctor, who confirmed the findings of the school screening and ordered an X-ray. So by this time, I'd hit up the internet and done a fair bit of reading. It's really only possible to 1) confirm Scoliosis and 2) determine how bad it is and 3) determine best course of action with an X-ray.
This is one of those times that I'm SO VERY thankful that we live in a big city with good healthcare options and services for kids. I contacted Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, who has a Scoliosis department and does regular Scoliosis clinics. I spoke to the director of this group. Turns out she lives near us. She personally knows our pediatricians. She used to work on the Cardiac Step Down unit at Egelston (where Quinn had his heart surgeries). I was instantly put at ease and knew we were in good hands.
Then Quinn went to the Scoliosis clinic and got his X-ray. This was right after Christmas. His Scoliosis diagnosis was confirmed. He's got a 4 degree left curve in his thoracic spine and a 6 degree right curve in his lumbar spine - classic S shape. These curves are very mild. More on that later.. They also measure how "mature" bone growth is to determine how much more growing is left. The more growing left, the greater the chance of further curve. They rate bone maturity on a scale of 0-5, where 5 is fully grown. Quinn is a 0. (Aside, he was very pleased about this as he seems to be just hitting his growth spurt and is quite anxious to look down on me.)
The plan for Quinn, given his mild curves, but significant growth coming, is to monitor. No restrictions. No bracing. No talk of any kind of surgical or other intervention. Scoliosis is not curable. It is manageable. This is something he will always have, but it's no different than the cleft in his chin. It's just how he is.
We were thrilled with the news that his curve(s) were both under 10%. We were relieved that we don't need to be seen again for 12 months, when he will revisit the Scoliosis clinic for a new X-ray to see how things are going.
Then Quinn surprised us all by using this OPPORTUNITY to prove he's bigger than anything his little body is going to throw at him. And it has thrown a lot at him. He's gone on about his life like none of this has happened. Maybe I should take his lead and learn a little lesson about saving worry until it's warranted.
And then a little more scoop...
You all know Spencer hurt his arm in the championship football game back in mid-October. We thought with rest he would be fine. We assumed it was a sprain/stretched muscle. He was between seasons. He got lots of rest and started to feel better.
Then Spencer participated in a lacrosse tournament. At one point he laid out a kid and came up moving funny - like his shoulder hurt. Like he was trying to regain range of motion. He said he thought it "popped out". We thought he was crazy, but it was probably time to see a doctor. This was about a month after the original injury.
Then we saw someone with the CHOA Sports Medicine team. (Aside, CHOA rocks and we are likely going to end up with a frequent flyer card by the time our boys are raised.) After an X-ray review, Spencer was prescribed physical therapy to strengthen the area and regain range of motion. This happened right before Thanksgiving.
Then Spencer started PT - and it was going really well. We liked the PT folks and they seemed to understand that he was an athlete who was really itching to get back to wrestling and lacrosse. He was also really wanting to continue his weight training routine. If Spencer is anything, it's focused about getting himself into the best physical shape his genetics will allow. He's motivated - and successful. The PT suggested we get "aggressive" with his sessions to speed up the stabilization of his shoulder and signed us up for sessions 3 times a week. Both the Sports Med guy and the PT thought we'd be good to go in 4-6 weeks.
Around 5 weeks passed and Spencer was feeling really good. This was right before Christmas. His range of motion was back and he had no pain. He started doing more stuff. He went to a Speed and Agility training session with his lacrosse team - in the rain. He fell on the arm and "heard a pop". He voluntarily pulled himself back out of all physical activity. It was this voluntary side-lining that made me think that something was really wrong. He doesn't voluntarily quit anything.
Then Spencer went back to the PT - who put the fear of God in us saying that he's had several dislocations and would now need 1) to be braced and 2) 12 weeks of ZERO activity to allow the shoulder to heal. She didn't even want him to lift his arm above his head to put on clothes. We were surprised by this OPPORTUNITY. We really (still) didn't have any idea how serious this was.
We decided we needed another opinion and should go back to the Sports Med team. The timing of all of this was both problematic and a blessing. It was all happening over the holiday break - so we didn't miss any school/work - but it was HARD to schedule the appointments we needed. Our second visit to Sports Med earned Spencer another X-ray and an order for an MRI. We sort of forced the MRI scheduling because our insurance deductible was long gone and it was much cheaper to get it done last week than it would have been this week. If I'm being honest, I thought the MRI would show that he just needed some more PT and some more time and was hoping to prove the PT wrong so we could get him back to sports faster.
Then we got the results of the MRI. Spencer has a torn labrum in his shoulder and the MRI showed a fracture. We were referred to a shoulder specialist with Children's Orthopaedic of Atlanta. We went to see him yesterday. If I'm being really honest, I 100% expected him to tell us that we needed to stay the course with the PT. I did my typical internet research and had convinced myself that the best approach for a torn labrum was rehabilitation to improve shoulder stability - i.e. Physical Therapy.
Then we saw the specialist, who - long story short - recommended surgery. Surgery with a 6 month recovery period. Shoulder surgery for a fit and healthy and athletic 14 year old. If that's not an OPPORTUNITY for growth, I'm not sure what is. He's already missed an entire wrestling season and will miss the entire spring lacrosse season. He will, hopefully and fingers crossed and prayers for normal recovery and successful surgery and all that, be back in time to play football with the Freshman team. His doctor, rightfully, is looking at the long term. Spencer, surprisingly, is relieved. He wants to "fix it" now so he doesn't have to worry about it. In a way that is more mature than I could expect or ask for, he's willing to take the short term pain to ensure that his long term goals remain intact. Unexpected news with a side of Life Lesson...
So that's what's going on with us. We don't know when Spencer's surgery will be yet. Hopefully I will find out today. I'd appreciate if you all could keep him in your thoughts and prayers as we work through this process. He'll do amazingly well and I'm sure someday we will look back at this with the benefit of hindsight and view it as a blessing - or at the least as merely a blip on our family path.
This got really long... if you made it this far, here are a couple of funny pictures of the big boys in their hospital gowns. I'm so thankful they have kept us laughing through all of this. They are such great kids!
PS - My little boys are, blessedly, healthy and happy and boring. Nothing going on with them that I would consider an OPPORTUNITY. Except maybe Zane's hair. It's kind of out of control in the dry, furnace heat. Apparently his hair really misses the humidity.