Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Shriner's and Crooked Feet and 7 Years of History
It's hard to believe, but it's been 7 years since Grace came home from India, which means it has been over 9 years since God started us on this journey of international special needs adoption. The 20 months waiting for her to come home seemed to take longer than these many years of enjoying her as our daughter. The journey has certainly been one of God's making and now we can clearly see His direction in it. Hindsight is 20/20 they say, and certainly in this case that is true. As our plans and ideas were yielded to God's plan we have literally been witnesses to miracles. One of those miracles being Grace's feet. God first called me very clearly to adopt Grace the very day she was born. Of course I didn't know it at the time that it was her birth date; all I knew at that point was a burning, relentless passion to do whatever it took to bring home the child that God had waiting for us in India. Ideally (in our minds at the time) that child was of course a healthy beautiful little girl about 2-4 years old. What a surprise when we accepted the referral of a 10 month old little girl with bilateral club feet. We didn't even know what club feet were at the time, but what we did know was that this was our daughter. (Some time ago I started writing our story here and here and one day I really will finish it.) When Grace finally did come home at 19 months old she was one sick little girl. Within the first week of her being home we had her seen by a pediatrician at an international adoption clinic for her overall health. She was very malnourished~ a mere 15 pounds at 19 months old. Then it was on to the Shriner's hospital in the Twin Cities where we would start her treatment for club feet. Club feet is something that is normally treated at birth by casting or special shoes. In Grace's case she had no treatment at all until she was 20 months old so her feet were very rigid and they were actually so twisted that she was walking on the tops of her feet when she tried to walk. Throughout the adoption process God had answered many prayers already, but the one prayer that I kept praying about once we found out she had club feet was that God would heal her feet without surgery. After studying what club feet were, and the results of not treating them for so long, we understood that little other than complete reconstructive surgery could probably be done for her. We were encouraged to contact Shriner's about their services and found out that they were one of the few hospitals that were treating children using the Ponsetti casting method. Nearly every week we brought Grace down to see Chaz and Dr. Aadalen and have new casts put on her feet. One of the things that made it harder for everybody was that once we were given custody of Grace in India she clearly made it known that she did not like anybody with colored skin anymore (she bonded immediately with me, had very little contact with men at the orphanage, and we are guessing that anybody of color must have represented to her that she would be taken away again~ she was staying with the white people), and especially men. So when Chaz walked in every time to apply her casts and he was a black man we had double the trauma. I would sit her in my lap and try to hold her and one little leg so the doctors could wrap, shape and mold a new cast from her toes to her hips every week. It gave us all a work out for sure. Every week the casts would add just a bit more pressure to shape her little feet into the correct position and every week I would pray that surgery would not be needed. After about 2 months of casting it was decided that surgery needed to be scheduled, so we reluctantly made arrangements and went down to the hospital for surgery. After prepping her and waiting for her surgery time we got a visit from a lab tech talking about eocinophil counts that were too high so surgery had to be cancelled. After much talking and more blood work and doctor visits we later discovered that Grace had internal parasites (which should have been picked up from all of her previous blood work but wasn't) and could not have surgery. So we went through treatment for the parasites and continued the casting process every week. Surgery #2 was set up and we headed down to the cities again expecting pretty extensive foot surgery. Again her blood work came back as having a high eocinophil count even after treatment. More doctors and more blood work and more medicine later and we continued the casting process. Seven months after first starting the casting her blood work finally came back low enough that the doctors said she could have the surgery. We made all the arrangements again and Grace and I headed down to the cities, but first I stopped to pray with some members of our church my same old prayer that God would correct her feet without the surgery. Grace was checked in and everything was settled to have surgery in the morning. We spent the night in the hospital family rooms and then headed down to the surgical unit early in the morning. I can still clearly recall walking down that long hallway and a feeling of God's peace washing over me as I expected His miracle. The doctor's really did not know what to expect when they went in for surgery. The seven months of casting had united us all surrounding this little girl and the miracle we all hoped for. Grace was the second oldest child at 20 months (the oldest being 22 months) that they had used the Ponsetti casting method on. After a very short surgery Chaz and Dr. Aadalen came back into her room with beaming faces to tell me that they did not have to do anything to her feet. Because of the length of casting the only surgical procedure needed was to release her achilles tendons on her heels. Who would have ever thought we would be praising God for parasites? Praise the Lord! Chaz once told me that Grace was "the feather in his cap". After surgery she had several weeks more in a hard cast, then 4 years in a brace (starting in them 24 hours a day and weaning down to only using it at bedtime). Grace went back for check-ups every 6 months and now only has to go once a year. She doesn't remember much about the experience any more and still doesn't like Chaz very much, but she does like his Donald Duck voice. For all of us involved it is a yearly celebration of what God did, not only in her life, but in all of ours' as well to be able to watch it. Last week was one of those check-ups and Grandma Lee came with again. Grandma Lee came with us most of the time for Grace's casting appointments. Love you Mom! That meant so much to me:) X-ray's used to be a pretty traumatizing event, but went really good this time around. As long as Dr. Aadalen didn't have to touch her feet too much Grace was fine with him. And Chaz did his Donald Duck voice so he was all right, too. One exciting part of the appointment was that they asked if they could use Grace's case for a study that they were putting together for a research paper. "Gabriella" took photos and video of Grace's feet and they will include her in the results of their work of the past 10 years of using the Ponsetti method of casting to correct club feet. The favorite part of our trip~ picking out toys from the toy box when we're done. The very familiar hallway where we visited Chaz every week. It was very humbling to watch the prosthetics being made. It made me count my blessings again. Back home until next September.