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Wednesday, April 25, 2007 

Now For Something Completely Different

The Chaos family spent yesterday getting our yearly reality check. For those readers who don't know, Cman was born with spina bifida. We have been extremely blessed and lucky. He walks, runs, has full bladder and bowel control, does not require a shunt...in other words, he's a "normal" kid. That is, aside from the yearly visit to the neurologist. These visits are necessary because he runs a very real risk of developing a tethered cord as he grows. The sooner a tethered cord is discovered, the sooner surgery can be done to keep the child from losing sensation, function, etc.

This year's reality check was a bit more involved than most. Usually we go in and the neurologist has him hop on one foot, touch his nose with his eyes closed, that sort of thing. This year Cman had an MRI. The MRIs are done every couple of years to help monitor the cord. His last one was performed in late 2002, so he was definitely due. Unfortunately, this did not sit well with Cman. For weeks leading up to this, he became teary at the mere mention of the doctor. The kid was terrified the scan would hurt. Needless to say, Mr. Chaos and I woke up yesterday morning with great trepidation. We were worried how Cman would cope and we were also nervous about the results. As we entered the hospital, I was in hypervigilant Mom mode. I was dialed into my son's emotion, and I was determined to do whatever it took to keep him calm.

Turns out I needn't have worried.

Cman was so incredibly brave. He sat with the child life specialist who explained to him in detail through pictures, model and video exactly what would be happening. When she was completed he said, "Okay, let's go." That's it. All of us fully expected he would need a mild sedative for the procedure. We walked down to the MRI waiting room waiting for panic. The panic never came. Cman picked out the CD he would listen to and walked out the door without even saying goodbye. We were fine with that, since we didn't want to upset him.

He'd been in the room about 10 minutes when a tech walked in. I braced myself thinking she was coming in to prepare a sedative. Instead, she smiled at us and said, "Is that your little boy in there?" We said yes. Then she gushed, "He's such a sweetheart! He got teary eyed because he forgot to say goodbye to you both. We told him he'd be right back out. He's so polite and sweet....and so well behaved! He's perfectly still in there."

Any parent would be proud to hear words such as these, and we were. Yet at the same time, Cman has an uncanny ability to engage people. Anywhere this kid goes, he puts smiles on people's faces. We've gotten used to hearing it, though never have we taken the sentiment behind it for granted. We smiled and thanked her, and shortly after Cman came back in. We grabbed a quick lunch and came back an hour later to get the results.

The doctor came in and said the words I have dreaded hearing for 6 years. Cman sat in my lap as she said, "His cord appears to be tethered." Those few words sent my world into a tailspin. I felt physically ill, and my grip on Cman must have tightened, because in the tiniest and most forlorn of voices he whispered, "What's wrong with my back?" The doctor smiled at him and said, "Nothing. It's the same as it's always been." Then I realized she was talking about the previous surgery. We had told his cord would always be slightly tethered, and she was referring to that. We left with a clean bill of health and a very proud boy.

On the hour drive home, I became somber. I often think of the "what ifs". I remember pushing Cman in the stroller as a baby watching children bike through the park, wondering if he would ever be able to bike ride.

We are working on removing his training wheels this summer. Did I think of this? Hell no.

The doctors told us when he was born that he most likely would struggle in school. He's doing second grade math and is participating in the school's Science Fair.

Instead of focusing on the positives, I became melancholy. It wasn't fair that such a fantastic boy should have to live on the finest of threads. Why my boy? I am embarrassed to say that I railed internally at the unfairness of life. Did I look cross-eyed on a Tuesday? Drink a drink before I knew I was pregnant? Why had this happened to us? Frustrated, I found tears welling in my eyes when I heard Cman tell his daddy from the backseat, ".....and that's when I kissed H on the bus."


I couldn't help but giggle, then chastise myself. Once again Cman had managed to point out the joy in life. Instead of spending the ride home telling us all about his experience, he decided to share a different new experience. Turns out he's been smooching a girl on the bus for well over a month. Not only did I have no idea, but it's not even the girl I thought he had a crush on.

We spent the ride home talking about little things. Cman likes gym class, loves playing tag with his friends, and apparently kissing on the bus when he thinks the bus driver isn't looking. He couldn't have cared less about the MRI, or the doctor.

Suddenly, neither did I. Thanks, Cman.

I'm so happy for you all. I know it must be a great relief.

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