A blog by Lori Lyons

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey is for family

I often tell my kids, my friends, my family, anyone who will listen to me, that the hardest part of being married is the holidays.

In fact, the holidays may be the hardest part of life in general (other than major illnesses and tragedies, of course).  Or unless you're a man.  For us womenfolk, the holidays are all about planning, shopping, cleaning, cooking, baking, worrying, obsessing, perfecting, stressing, decorating and, oftentimes, peacemaking. Sometimes, there is drinking. For men, it's usually about the football.

That's because we're all trying to achieve the impossible -- we're either trying to recreate the perfect holidays of the memories of our youth, or we're trying to invent the ones we never had. The ones we see on TV, that mythical perfect holiday dinner with the turkey in the center of the table with the white table cloth with everybody smiling and happy.

Isn't that how your mama or your grandmama did it?

I have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at my Grannie's house, which was next door to our trailer. Grannie had a huge oval wooden table that she set meticulously with the lace tablecloth hand-crocheted by Grandpa's sister, Aunt Irma Lee, her fine china and silver that had been passed down for generations and crystal goblets. A plantation child, Grannie also had cool little antique gadgets, like a crystal knife rest which kept the butter from getting on the tablecloth, and individual salt and pepper wells.

The adults would drink wine (probably Boone's Farm, but OK), and my brother and I would get grape juice to pretend. Grandpa would repeatedly warn us not to back our chairs into the glass china closet, and we would eat our turkey, cranberry jelly, sweet potatoes with the little marshmallows melted on top, Grannie's oyster dressing, cornbread dressing, peas, fruit salad and brown and serve rolls. My sister, the oldest, would make cherry pies that my brother and I loved.

And yes, I have tried to recreate those meals in my own house with my own husband and children. I have Grannie's lace tablecloth, but it's too tattered to use anymore. And I set my own meticulous table with my own wedding china and crystal and my great-grandparents' silverware. It's my version of Norman Rockwell.

But when my daughter was about 6 or 7, she asked us why we don't put the turkey on the table all pretty like they do on TV. It was our custom to bring the turkey slices to the table on a large platter, after my father-in-law had taken it the bird into the laundry room to carve it up with the electric knife. So we humored her. The Coach brought the big, brown beautiful bird to the table, we oohed and aahed for a moment, then Pappy took it to the laundry room to cut up.

Of course, when it comes to the holidays, the most important thing is family. But that's also the most difficult part of getting, being and staying married. Just like on your wedding day, sides must be chosen. Lines must be drawn.

At whose house are you going to eat on Thanksgiving? On Christmas? Where will you eat dessert? And it starts even before the wedding. I've seen my stepdaughter and stepson sit at a table already rubbing their too-full bellies because they're trying to give a little to everyone and make everybody happy. It can't be done.

I can clearly remember the last time I had a holiday dinner with my own family -- my mom, my stepdad, my sister and her husband, my brother, his wife and their children. It was November, 2000. The woman who had promised to let us adopt her child had just reunited with her boyfriend. Our nursery was all decorated, but remained empty.

My family, feeling sorry for me, came to my house and let me cook for them. It was nice. We all got along. We made wonderful memories. We were blessed with our baby girl just two months later. But my brother would not live to see another Thanksgiving.

All the others have been about my husband's family -- his parents, his children. And, because that's the way we decided to roll, his ex wife, her husband, his children, Later, it came to include my stepson's wife and her parents.  Yes, they'll all be coming to my little house on Thanksgiving. We'll go to the ex wife's house on Christmas Eve. Last year was the opposite.

And I realized the other day that this holiday season will be my first. I mean, "mine." For the first time in more than 20 years, this will not be my mother-in-law's holiday where she dictated all the rules -- what to cook, when to eat, what to eat, how to eat. Where to eat.

In the early days, I capitulated. I let her have Thanksgiving at her house in exchange for Christmas. That was fine. My mom even lived in the same town in Mississippi, so it was easy to go there. Except for Lora's first Thanksgiving. She needed a nap before the big meal. The mothers refused to allow it and repeatedly questioned why in the world I thought my child should take a nap. They found out when she fell asleep at the table during dinner.

They would then come to my house for Christmas. But of course, it was still "her" holiday. She actually said that one time. "This is MY Christmas." The "not yours" was left unspoken. So we cooked her way. We went to church at her time (4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, which I hated). We woke up when she decided. And we ate what and when she demanded.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit and the in-laws lost everything and moved in with us. I still did my best to let her have "her" holiday.

Now I don't have to.

My Thanksgiving will be in my house, cooked in my tiny kitchen (without a dishwasher mind you) and served on my table with my china and silver -- just like my Grannie used to do. I'm trying to create memories for my daughter, traditions that she will want to carry on to her family -- but probably have to give up once she gets married.

That's just the way it is. Pick your battles, hon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's my "Book-i-versary"!

Growing up identifying myself as a "Writer," of course I dreamed that someday I would write a book.

I just never dreamed it would be this one.

Adopting in America: The Diary of a Mom in Waiting

Then again, I never could write fiction.

Yes this story is true. All of it. And it is my story -- the story of how I set out to become a mom in the usual way, only to find out the hard way that I couldn't. Well, not the usual way, anyway.

Journalist that I always have been, I journaled. Through the tries, the failures, the doctors visits, the science experiments. Then my turn around the corner toward adoption -- and the tries, the failures, the experiments.

And, ultimately, the joy.

And then I blogged. And then I decided one day to post a snippet of what was then just a personal, private journal. Then I got some encouragement. And that began another whole journey filled with tries and failures and experiments.

Then this.

Three years ago today, with my 11-year-old adopted daughter holding one hand, I pressed the "Upload" button on my computer with the other.  Today is my "Book-i-versary."

Three years later, I am a very proud non-Best-Selling Author. I sold a few. Gave away a few more. Still have a few in the back of my car if you want one. Or, it IS still available at Amazon.com and at B&N.com for your Nook.

It's the story of how I went from a woman with a broken heart to a woman with a full heart -- and a daughter -- through hard work, perseverance, stubbornness, a little luck, a lot of prayer and, maybe, a little bit of destiny.

It is my hope that my story might give a little bit of hope to those other women out there who are waiting, hoping, dreaming, yearning for a child to fill their empty arms and the hole in their heart. It can be done. It isn't easy, but it can.

If you have (or plan to) read the book, here are a few updates:

Lora Leigh is a beautiful, bright, creative young woman who can draw, sing and write beautifully. She has been the light of my life, my ultimate joy. I cannot imagine my life without her in it.  (And she did inspire me to create two children's stories!) She is well-adjusted to her adoption. She says she likes knowing who her people are and where they are. But she doesn't discuss it much. We do celebrate her adoption anniversary -- April 15th -- which we call simply, "Lora Day."

We are still in touch with her first family.  Her first mother Gail, aunts, uncles and a host of cousins all follow her with my regular Facebook updates and this blog. Her sister Ashlee has grown into a beautiful young woman. We all were there when she graduated from high school last year. We still have semi-regular visits.

Kimberly has not led a wonderful life. Facebook stalker that I can be, I found her a few years ago and was happy to see that her daughter Samantha  -- the baby we would have named Elle --  looked to be a healthy, normal, well-cared for child. There also was a younger boy in the photographs.

Then tragedy struck. One day I went to check up on them and saw photos of Samantha in a hospital bed, surrounded by tubes and machines. She and her family had been riding bicycles when she had some sort of accident. She did not survive.

I wrote at the time that perhaps this was all part of the plan. Perhaps Samantha was supposed to stay with her mother because she wasn't going to be here for very long.  That makes me feel a little better, anyway.

We wonder if this is they way it was all supposed to be all along. If I had been able to get pregnant, I would not have my girl. I am forever grateful that Gail chose us. From the day she called us -- completely out of the blue! -- my heart told me there was a reason. I knew it. Marty told me I was crazy, but I knew it. It was all meant to be.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Giving Back

As we were preparing to leave the hospital after Lora's spinal fusion surgery, a very nice lady from the Blood Bank came to visit us.

She very politely asked us if we would consider donating blood to replace the three units Lora needed during her surgery. (That's three units BESIDES her own blood, which was recycled, mind you.)

"Of course," we said.

"Or you might consider a blood drive."

Well, that seemed like a great idea. With all the people we know in the community, that should be a piece of cake.

Ha. No.

First, there was the problem of finding a suitable site, then a suitable date, then a myriad of paperwork.

But, here we are three months later and we are having a blood drive. Today. At my daughter's middle school.

Please, somebody, show up.

We have done our best to put the word out. We put up flyers around the community. I flooded my Facebook and Twitter timelines with reminders. The school even did a robo call about the parent teacher conferences and tacked on an announcement about the blood drive. I notified the newspapers.

And one decided this was a pretty good story: Norco family gives back

We are truly blessed. And thankful. And oh-so-grateful.

I'll be more grateful if a few people show up, but I'm very grateful.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Uncool, Mom

I'm not exactly sure when it happened. I'm pretty sure I know how.

In the blink of an eye, my adorable, precious, sweet little girl I waited forever for grew up. There were a few years there when she thought I hung the moon -- those days when I would rock her for hours, read her stories, have tea parties on a blanket in the backyard and watch "Wiz of Oz" for the one thousandth time. But that was long ago.

Those were the days when she wanted me around, when she would bring me the parent volunteer forms and make me sign up to chaperone her field trips, when she would allow me to come to her class on volunteer days.

Those days are long gone.

She's a teenager now, you know. And just-like-that I have become the Uncool Mom,   the one no cool teenager wants around -- unless I'm driving her to Barnes and Noble.

Just last week her class went on a trip to the local wetlands park. I was available. I would have gone. My BFF Kristal, whose daughter is my daughter's BFF, went.  So, I asked my kid:

Me: Hey! You want me to go on the field trip?
Her: No, that's OK.
Me: You sure? I can go.
Her: No, that's OK.

So I didn't.

This week, I regained a portion of my coolness when I spent a small fortune to buy tickets to the annual New Orleans Voodoo Fest. This is a three-day festival over Halloween weekend in New Orleans' City Park, where a bunch of bands you've probably never heard of and the Foo Fighters will perform. For $175, you can buy a three-day pass to see and hear all of them. For $76 you can go one day. My kid, however, only wants to see one, single band, her OMG ABSOLUTE FAVORITE band, The Arctic Monkeys. Yeah, betcha never heard of them either. I have, because I'm cool like that.

But apparently I am NOT cool enough to accompany her on this adventure. No, she has decided to take her older sister, Courtney.

"I think she would have more fun," she said.

She's probably right. Frankly, I have no desire to go to New Orleans City Park at 9 o'clock at night (which is what time they are scheduled  to play), fighting traffic and a bunch of drunk/hungover and probably drugged out hipsters for elbow room. I really only want to watch her watch them. But, that's not cool, apparently.

So, last night my precious, beloved child came and sat next to me.

Her: I don't want you to be sad, Mom. I feel bad. I feel like that episode of Full House where D.J. got tickets to see the Beach Boys and decided to take Uncle Jessie and Danny got sad. I don't want you to be sad.
Me: I'm not sad. I just want you to go and have a good time.
Her: You sure?
Me: I'm sure.

And she wandered back to her room, appeased.

I'm so glad there was a box of tissues close by.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Curve balls

I believe my daughter was still in her hospital bed, still hooked up to her morphine pump, still dazed and confused after her surgery when my stepdaughter gave me a look.

"So, what are you going to write about now?"

At the time, I believe I indignantly said I had lots to write about. Lots of topics, lots of stories, lots of fodder for my little blog here.

But, go look. You haven't seen much of me, have you? Or heard much from me? I haven't had much to say or much to tell. And I don't know if that's because I've just been so worn out by recent events or my life is just that boring.

Probably a little bit of both.

If you're wondering, Lora Leigh is doing great. Her recovery has gone much smoother than anyone -- certainly I -- imagined it would. Although we had a few rough times, none of my nightmares came to fruition. Her scar is straight and healing beautifully. Her pain levels never reached what I feared they would. She is back to her normal, goofy self. And I tell all the moms-in-waiting in the Facebook groups, "The reality is not nearly as bad as your imagination."

The Coach's knee replacement surgery went fine as well, but his recovery has been much slower than he anticipated. He has a hard time getting and staying comfortable, and still has a pronounced limp. His attitude is great, though, and that helps him through.

Saturday was the 22nd anniversary of our first date -- a Saints-49ers game in the Superdome. He asked me to go, I told him I was already going with my mom, he sold the tickets, my mom invited someone else, I told him I could go and he spent days trying to get his tickets back. When we got to the crowd surrounding the Dome, I slipped my hand in the crook of his arm and felt -- something. We both did. Later, he excused himself.

"Bring me back some chocolate," I told him.
"What kind?" he replied.
"Surprise me," I said.
He came back with one of every kind of chocolate they had.  And I knew he was the guy for me.

And me? I'm just a little freelancing fool, covering high school football and volleyball games for both The New Orleans Advocate and Sportsnola.com.  I haven't written any great works, but I've kept busy and made the car payments. I guess that's all that matters.

Yesterday, September 30, 2014, marked two years since I was laid-off by the then-great Times-Picayune newspaper. Today, October 1, 2014, would have been my 28th anniversary at the paper. Any day now I would have gotten my little invitation to drive to New Orleans for a free cup of coffee in the cafeteria  and a meeting with the human resources head.

Instead, I sat in my little home office,  surrounded by my favorite things and writing about the annual Hahnville-Destrehan football rivalry and procrastinating. I hate doing football capsules.

Oh, I miss it sometimes -- getting dressed in real clothes and not just yoga pants, the friends in the office who knew everything going on in my life, being part of a team. I'm sort of a housewife now. I don't go anywhere after my daily walk.  I rarely wear long pants. Sometimes I shower and dress and put makeup on and say, "OK. Where can I go?" Sometimes I go to the Dollar General, which is just across the street from my house. Sometimes I go to Big Lots.

It gets a little lonely sometimes.

But I look back on the last two years and have to wonder: Did all this happen for a reason? Did I get moved from sports to crime so that I would come to hate it so much that I wouldn't be so devastated when it all came to an end? Did I lose my job so that I would be able to take in Jane the Mother-in-Law two weeks later? Did she pass on so that I could devote my attention to my daughter and my husband when they needed me? Would I have been able to do all that for them with a full-time job? Probably not.

Strange how life throws you curve balls sometimes. Strange how, sometimes, they're the pitch you're supposed to hit. At least they make for good stories.

Monday, August 11, 2014

School Daze

Where in the world does the time go?

She is an 8th grader as of today, heading off to her last year of Middle School just five weeks after major surgery.

Me: You gonna show everybody your gnarly scar?
Her: Mmm hmmm.
Me: Cool.

First grade to eighth grade.
In the blink of an eye. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Life on the Other Side

"Life on the Other Side."

That is what my fellow scoliosis parents call life after surgery -- after the worrying, the waiting, the sleepless nights, the nightmares, the consultations with doctors and surgeons, the MRIs and the X-rays, and after the week in the hospital trying to get your kid and your life back to some semblance of normal.


  [nawr-muhl]  Show IPA
conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.

Of course, most of them (probably ALL of them) didn't have their husband undergo just-as-major surgery 12 days later, so their "normal" and my "normal" probably aren't even close. To me, "normal" is not automatically waking up every two hours and being able to put Grandma's shower chair back in the garage.

This is Lora Leigh's fifth week after surgery and I can't even express in words how great she is doing. She was off all of her pain medicines after two weeks. She takes the occasional Ibuprofen or Aleve now. She bathes and dresses herself -- but does need help tying her shoes.

She is still figuring out how to do a lot of things -- how to sit in a chair, how to pick something up off the floor, how to tie her own shoes, how to give hugs and kisses when she is standing and we are sitting. But we have been to Barnes and Noble (her favorite place!), and Walmart (not her favorite place), and Rue 21 (her second favorite place). And Sunday she went with her friends to the New Orleans Mechacon for the first time and made it through the whole day. (She even showed them her gnarly scar!)

Well, she was a little bent over when she got home, but not in pain. I'm hoping this is a good harbinger for when she starts school next week.

The Coach, on the other hand, is a different story. His normal, I think, is a good ways off. He had his right knee replaced on July 15. After two grueling weeks of in-home physical therapy, lots of ice and two bottles of Demerol, he got his staples out on July 28, two weeks post op. His scar is nice and pretty, but he still can't straighten his leg. It's been two years since he has been able to straighten his leg. It's going to take a while.

He made it up the stairs to our bedroom in the second week, but still has a hard time getting comfortable anywhere -- the bed, the chair, his cave. He rolls around a lot. He can shower and dress himself without help, but isn't able to pitch in around the house as much. He can't put out the garbage or do the laundry or shop or cook, but he is managing to do the dishes again.

And he did drive himself to school today for the first day for teachers, taking the ribbing from his colleagues over his cane. His new normal also includes not being The Coach. He gave up the baseball team in the spring, remember. So, now he's just Mr. Luquet, not Coach. That may be harder for him to get used to than his new metal knee.

As for me, well, my new normal is taking some getting use to (besides doing more chores, I mean.) For the first time in nearly two years, since the fall of 2012 when my mother-in-law Jane moved in with us, I don't have anyone to take care of.  Marty's back at school and Lora doesn't really count since she sleeps until 3 p.m.  And there is no one to dress or feed or give pills to or water or take to dialysis treatments. It's  very strange. I'm free! I have no obligations, no schedules, no excuses.

Of course, I also have no job.

Now that I can, I'm going to jump into this freelancing thing with both feet though. The kind folks at The New Orleans Advocate have promised me as much work as I can handle through the fall football season. I'm also writing for SportsNola.com. If I can just make my car payment, I'll be happy. 

I'm also happy that our New Normal is so normal. It's just us, an over-stressed mom, a dad with a new knee and a teenager with a nice, straight spine, one poodle who likes to pee on furniture and one who likes to eat Kleenex. (And a kooky Mama who needs me to fix her iPhone for her every once in a while.) And we're all on the Other Side together.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bent Wings: A Scoliosis Journey -- Getting Straight

**Blogger's note: I honestly had every intention that this final chapter in our Scoliosis journey would be a running log of our hospital stay. I imagined keeping the world and my 42 followers  up to date on our daily progress. Yeah. Then reality happened. There were days at the hospital when I was too tired to comb my hair, much less compose a blog post. And since we've been home, my days have been consumed by Lora's care. So, the world has had to wait for the end of the story. 

If you don't want to go through the whole thing with us, here is the short version: Lora's surgery was a complete success. Her 48 degree curve was reduced to 5 degrees. She was on the table for 7 1/2 hours, the longest and hardest day of all of our lives. She spent six days in the hospital.  Her recovery has been slow (and very emotional), but steady. She gets better every day. We consider ourselves so very blessed.

Now, here is the long version .... (I will update daily, then semi-daily.... then once in a while. We'll see.)

July 3, Day One: After months of anxiety, weeks of sleepless nights and one outright panic attack on my part, the day is here. We had to be at the hospital for 5:30 a.m., so Lora and I intended to stay up all night watching Teen Wolf. I almost made it. I zonked out at about 12:30 and she nudged me awake. She finally let me go to bed at about 3 a.m. I did sleep for an hour. Amazingly. Just as amazing is that she wasn't nervous or scared at all. It was like she was going off to camp or something. ... It was still dark outside when we pulled out of the driveway and when we parked at Ochsner Hospital. There was no traffic. We made our way to the second floor -- Same Day Surgery -- where I checked us in. And thus began the longest day of my life.
     They handed me a card with a number on it. Lora's number. I didn't understand at the time, but I would later. She went off to a little corner to listen to her music while I paced and Marty made friends with some folks sitting nearby. At 6 a.m., they called Lora's name in a group of others and my heart began to pound. She and I followed the nurse to the back. We got her changed and onto the gurney. Then there was a flurry of activity as one nurse after the other came in. One took blood. Then one put in the IV. That's the only time I saw fear on Lora's face -- briefly. It was the only time she let me hold her hand. She handled it like a champ. A few minutes later, I sent for Marty to come in to wait with us. Folks came in with papers to sign. People came to explain how things would work. The anesthetist came in. The neurologist, who would be monitoring Lora's nerve activity throughout the surgery. The Child Life Director came in to ask if there was anything we needed after surgery. Another came in to bring Lora a helium balloon. Then Dr. Waldron came in. I asked him if he was well-rested, had a good night's sleep, a good dinner, practiced drawing his straight lines ... And more nurses. They kept saying, "A few minutes." They weren't kidding.
     At 7 a.m., they came for her and we were told to say our goodbyes. It was heart-wrenching. Yes, I cried. I tried not to, but I couldn't help it. Yes, there was the fear that I would not see her again or that something horrible might happen to her. I had to entrust my daughter to them. And that was hard. Marty broke the tension a bit. "Go straighten her out," he quipped.
     Then they gave her a shot of something, and wheeled her off, her balloon tied to her gurney and flying in the breeze.
      Marty and I made our way back to the waiting room and found an empty loveseat. We settled in. We were so naive. The huge area was already filled with families and friends of patients, loved ones holding on to clear plastic bags filled with their loved one's belongings. We each updated our friends and families via cell phone and Facebook, and sat back to wait....
     Marty and I have since debated whether this was the longest, hardest day or our lives or the day of her birth, when we were so terrified that things could change at any minute. I said birth day; he said surgery day. It's pretty close.
     We spent about two hours on our little loveseat. He read his Kindle, I stared into space. Eventually I put on Pandora (70s Lite Rock) and even dozed off for a minute or so. Until my phone rang. It was "them," telling me that they had just begun the surgery at 9 a.m. We decided to sneak downstairs for a quick bite to eat.
      We returned upstairs at about 10 a.m. A few minutes later, my mom found us. We lost our spot on the loveseat, but Marty scouted us a spot at a round table near the TV. That was good and bad. We had more room, but we had to watch some crap throughout the day. But we also were right under the Computer Screen.
      Let me explain: You know how Domino's has its Pizza Tracker? Ochsner has its Patient Tracker. It's a big computer flat screen that shows each patient by number and where they are in their process -- "In Pre Proc" "In Proc" "In Recovery," etc.
     Lora was "In Proc" for six straight hours.... I know because, for six hours I stared at that screen, finding Lora's number each time it rolled around.
    And it was agony.
    Oh, there were updates. About every hour or so, a perky young nurse would holler out Lora's name. We'd go running. She would smile at us and say, "They are still working. Everything is fine." It scared the shit out of us! They finally stopped at about 1 p.m.
     By 3 p.m., I was about to go mad.  My husband's buddy came to visit, so he had a distraction.  My mother was watching the fish in the giant fish tank die one by one. I was staring into space and rocking back and forth, trying to keep my sanity.
    Finally, shortly after 3 p.m., the giant Patient Tracker switched from green to pink, from "In Proc" to "Closing." I nearly shouted. Then, at nearly 4 p.m., they called her name. We were ushered into a small room to wait for her surgeon to come talk to us. That really wasn't scary. By then, I knew she was OK. He was just going to explain everything. A few minutes later, in came Dr. Waldron (yay!), who was pumped and on an adrenaline high. He had Lora's X-rays and told us everything went fine. She was still on the table being tended to, but would be in Recovery soon. Then he showed us the X-rays.
    Wow. That's all I can say. Her curve went from 48 degrees to about 5. She is straight.
     "Dr. Zavatsky said these X-rays are effing awesome," Dr. Waldron said, proudly.
     "I'll say it too," I replied. Then I hugged him.
      Marty and I went back out to wait. Thrilled, scared, excited, happy, sad, exhausted I had a little mini breakdown. I was so relieved that it was over, but so sad that she had Soon enough we were called to Recovery, where we were FINALLY able to see our baby. The nurse said she was a little weepy, and had been asking for her mom. "Why hasn't my mom been here to see me? Where's my mom?" And when I walked in the room and called her "Peaches," she said, "Mom?"
     She was puffy and weepy. She kept saying she couldn't open her eyes. Her mouth felt yucky. They let me give her ice chips. She was there for a very long time. Marty and I took turns sitting with her. Courtney arrived and brought us some food, so we tag teamed to eat. Then Marty, who had been suffering with an ear ache, began feeling bad so he went home (and promptly got sick). I sat with Lora in Recovery, in a hard uncomfortable chair, and waited ... and waited ... and waited... They didn't have a room! We've been there since 5:30 a.m., how can they not have a room? It's not like they didn't know I was coming!
     At 9 p.m. I put out a plea to my friends and Prayer Warriors on Facebook and Twitter to pray that they find us a room. About 30 minutes later, we were given a number. Then, finally at 10 p.m. -- six hours after her surgery ended, we were put into a room. (I have to say, it was worth the wait! We got one of the big two-room suites! Thanks Prayer Warriors.)
     The nurses got her settled and showed me how to pull out the chair to make a bed. And I finally fell into an exhausted sleep..... Lora occasionally would wake up and want ice chips or a pillow fixed. Of course, nurses came in every few hours to check things and beepers went off every once in a while, but I finally got a little sleep. And I was back with my girl...

July 4, Day Two: The road to recovery is long and bumpy! Lora was more alert and, surprisingly, not in a great deal of pain. They constantly asked her for a number and she constantly replied a 6 or an 8 -- never higher. Sometimes she was a 3. Lora's surgeon and his residents (one of which was stunningly handsome!) came in bright and early.  "You did great," Dr. Waldron said to Lora. "Yeah," she replied. "I was hard work lying on that table for so long." My stepdaughter Courtney arrived bright and early with coffee and pancakes from McDonald's and mascara! Marty, meanwhile, was off to Urgent Care to get his ear taken care of.  Once Marty did arrive, I went home to clean up and nap. I took the hottest shower I could. And it was not a nap. It was a coma. ... Friday night was tougher as Lora began to regain her senses. But she couldn't pee. They had taken her catheter out in the morning. Shortly after 8 p.m., they had to re-cath her, which is not uncommon. She saw it as a defeat. She started wanting to roll every few hours. She wanted Diet Coke and ice chips. She was cranky. So was I. Ochsner is a "healthy" hospital. It's vending machines sell carrots. I kid you not. There is no chocolate to be had anywhere. And I let the Facebook world know it. Marty, meanwhile, was at home with two terrified dogs cowering with him because of fireworks.

July 5, Day Three: Dr. Kang is one of Dr. Waldron's residents. Dr. Kang is an early bird. He shows up at 5:30 in the morning. One of the first things they did today was remove her morphine pump. That made a WORLD of difference. She is more alert and awake today. And they removed her catheter. She ate some mandarin oranges. But she needs her pain meds every four hours. It's Saturday, so she has lots of visitors today. Her friends Cy and Devin came with their mom,  my BFF Kristal (who brought me chocolate!). A short time later, the Visiting Pet Program folks came in. Years ago when I had the best dog in the world Lollee, I would take her to Ochsner to visit the children. Serendipity. Our friends Donnie and Kaylee came to visit, and brought a BIG basket of goodies (including lots of chocolate!) But once they all left, she just crashed. And that night, we had our first melt down. Both of us. Extremely uncomfortable and in pain all night long she cried and asked why her, why did we do this, when would she get better? She was so sad and a little mean. We both cried. All my friends on the Support Group Board said Day Three was the worst. It was.

July  6, Day Four: This is the day they say gets better. They removed her catheter again. The Physical Therapy folks came in to get her up. It didn't go great. She got very dizzy and nearly passed out -- no surprise. But later, they did get her to sit in a chair for a while. Marty brought her some watermelon to eat and we filled her with fluids. My sister-in-law Lou and niece Marti came for a little visit. And Lora's  brother Daniel, sister-in-law Cori and even niece Robi came to visit. Then Courtney stayed with her for a while so Marty and I could go get a bite to eat (real food!). We also went to K-Mart to get some pajamas for her. And a really cool Spiderman blanket.
     But she still couldn't pee. All day. And she did try. And she was getting worried as her eight hour window began to close. A new nurse came on shift at 7 p.m., who said she'd give her time. Finally just after 7 p.m., she went! And the nurse and I high-fived. Later that night she was playing on her phone, eating Goldfish crackers and drinking Diet Coke. She only called me to go to the bathroom and to pack her pillows tight against her back when she rolled over. It was so much easier to turn her without the catheter and the big bag. It was a good night.

July 7, Day Five: For the last three days over the holiday weekend, Ochsner Hospital was a ghost town. The cafeterias were closed, there were no patients milling about the lobby, no one playing the baby grand piano in the lobby. Today, it was back to being a hub of activity. So was Lora's room. Dr. Kang with his 5:30 a.m. visit. Then the 7 a.m. shift change. In the middle of the night, Lora had to go to the bathroom. We had been doing great! She was up and moving and walking better. I was figuring out how to manage her little cart of fluids, her suction drain from her back and her. We had this down! But then, at about 3 a.m., she was sitting on the toilet when she started to get weak. She wanted to go lie down. Quickly. But she was going down fast. In the bathroom. I was trying to hold her up, keep her blood-filled suction thing from hitting the floor and holding on to the fluid cart. I had to pull that emergency string in the bathroom and yell for help, then hold her up until they came. They came running, and helped her get back in the bed. Scared the crap out of me. ... My plan was, when Marty arrived I was going to go home for the day. But now I'm too scared and worried. So I did go home to take a good shower and repack my bag. Fortunately, it was the only time it happened that day. While I was gone, the PT folks came and walked her all the way down the hall. (Marty did not take pictures.) They also took her to X-ray. That was a fiasco. They made her wait nearly an hour, lying flat on her back on a gurney, while they located a second technician to help with the X-ray. Marty finally raised hell. Good thing I wasn't there.... (Our only two snafus with Ochsner have been with X-ray.)
  Later that night, Nurse Christie comes in and helps clean Lora up. We get her dressed in some of her new clothes. A visit from Dr. Waldron brought good news. We get to go home tomorrow! Good. I miss my bed.

July 8, Day Six: Another bad dizzy spell in the a.m. has me very worried. If she can't walk without passing out, she can't go home. But I don't want her to go home if she's not ready. Plus, it's not noon yet. They don't know that it's way too early for Lora to be up and moving. The morning nurse is a no-nonsense kind of gal, determined to get us going. She helped me get Lora to and from the bathroom.  All of her discharge papers are done, now it's just a matter of Lora being able to walk without passing out. Her incision drain is removed (thank God. I did NOT want to go home with that thing!) They hook up her last bag of fluids. She eats some macaroni and cheese for lunch. Determined, Lora, with her dad's help, walks from her bed in her room to the chairs in the sitting room. but she doesn't stay too long. When the PT folks come, they take Lora for a walk down the hall. She stays upright. She goes back to bed to nap. I start packing up our gear.
   At about 2 p.m., we are set to go. Marty starts bringing stuff to the car -- until a nurse stops him and tells him they have a cart for that. We decide to wait until after she gets her afternoon meds so she won't hurt too bad on the drive. Then we just have to wait for someone from transport to take us down.
    Finally, about 2:30, a cute little fellow named Erik arrives with a wheelchair and a great attitude. He loads us up and is happy to help us get out of there. He's cute. He lets Lora rest her head on his stomach... I tell him he's going to be famous in a blog...
    Lora goes to get in my car and hits her head. "I really did grow!" she said. She really did. We put pillows all around her and lie her seat back a bit. She is as comfortable as she can be. I really want to put my hazards on. Or write, "Patient on Board," on my rear window. Every time I hit the brakes, she hurts.
     But we finally do get home and get her into bed. And I take a nap.

July 9, Day Seven: Marty and I took shifts through the night giving her pain meds and turning her from side to side. It's not a bad night. I'm just so thrilled to have slept in my own bed! But I am up early and ready to go for my walk. I need it! I'm tired, but it's a good one. The rest of the day is spent just trying to get Lora comfortable and get her to eat and drink. The Home Health nurse came to check her out. Her back isn't hurting hardly at all. It's her ribs. We figure it's because everything has been shifted. It's like she has bruised ribs. But it keeps her from finding comfort. She and I resume our Teen Wolf marathon. She's trying to get me through all the past episodes so that we can watch the current season together on Mondays. We both get tired easily. But Lora is thrilled when she gets a Facebook acknowledgement from Shelly Hennig, a local girl who has a starring role on the show. That made her day.
  On a sad, scary note, one of the moms in my support group was so terrified of her daughter's surgery. We all did our best to reassure her that nothing would happen. I even wrote, "Look how many of us there are all over the world and there have been no tragedies." Her daughter woke up from surgery unable to move her legs. After trying a few things and an MRI, they took her back into surgery and removed everything. She is supposed to wait six months, then go back and do it again. I am so grateful to have the surgeons we had. Both of them.

July 10, Day Eight: One Week Post-Op. I can hardly believe it's been a week already. Yet, it has been the longest week of my life The home health physical therapy ladies came by -- one of them had come to take care of Jane. They tell Lora that everything she is doing is wrong. The only way she can get comfortable is to curl up on her side in the recliner. One tells her not to do that. The other says, whatever works. Lisa, who I knew from Jane's stay with us, helps me check out Lora's scar. The steristrip on the bottom three inches has come off, which totally freaks me out. But the incision is still closed, so that's good. She also helps me brainstorm on how to wash Lora's hair. AFter she leaves, I get Lora to lie crossways on the bed and hang her head off the side. I get the hospital bucket with some water and a cup, along with the plastic covered pillow we stole from the hospital. And we manage. I only get a little on the floor. She's happy. That night, Marty has a game, so I go get us some Chinese takeout for dinner.

July 11, Day Nine: All is not smooth. Lora has ups and downs. And a few demonic possessions. The last 30 minutes before she is to take her meds are the worst. She gets mean and cranky. And mean. And she takes it all out on her mom. I can't do anything right. Everything I suggest to her, she takes as a punishment. She is hard-headed and stubborn. So am I. But she is getting better. I am getting extraordinarily frustrated. I'm trying to convince her that she has to move. She has to walk around the house. She'll never get better if she doesn't. Later that night, after we've both calmed down, she and I hammer out a schedule. She gets meds every two hours. She has to move every two hours.

July 12, Day Ten:  She's singing "I am Titanium." I think she's feeling better. After her morning meds, we figure out a way to give her a shower. I put Saran Cling Wrap -- and it DOES -- over her incision (I am pleased to report that her incision is very nice and straight. She should have a very pretty 15 inch scar eventually). I use Jane's old shower chair and get her in and out quick. The main thing is to get her hair washed. So glad I let her cut it before her surgery. Then,  I spend nearly the entire day floating in my pool. We order pizza for dinner and watch a little Teen Wolf.

July 13, Day 11: Lora is able to get up out of bed on her own. After a few days with my assistance, she now goes to the bathroom on her own. She still struggles to get in and out of the recliners and to find a comfortable position. But she is eating much better. Her ribs still hurt her a great deal, which worries me a great deal. She spends most of the day in her room. Marty heads off to the ballpark. I haven't been out of my house since Tuesday. The only place I have been is the hospital and CVS. I'm going a little stir crazy. Her BFF (and mine) come for a little visit, which perks her up a bit. She and Marty try to cheer me up by watching "Dirty Dancing" with me. We have a whole list of movies to watch. We'll never get to it.

July 14, Day 12:  Well, I spent most of the day doing this thing, trying to remember what happened when. What day did they take the catheter out? When did they put it back in? When did she pee? Yes, the days all blur together after a while. Lora's two physical therapists came today to get her moving. We also spent much time trying to get her bowels moving. We finally did! Another WIN!
    Today was also the last day of me having just one patient. Tomorrow morning, I take my husband to another hospital for 5:30 a.m., where he will have his much-anticipated knee replacement surgery. I am not nearly as nervous for him as I was for Lora. In fact, I didn't even think about him much over the past few months. Sorry, babe. I'm more worried about the aftermath. He's going to be a much bigger baby than Lora, I just know it. And I'll be worried about Lora every minute.
     Say some prayers for all of us.

July 15, Day 13: Another day, another 4 a.m. wakeup call, another hospital. This time, it's Marty's turn. Knee replacement surgery. His knee is almost a crooked as Lora's back. The difference is, he has been in extraordinary pain for quite some time. I was one of the (several) reasons he decided to give up his baseball team this season.

So, we get to River Parishes Hospital in LaPlace at 5:30. No, this isn't big ole Ochsner Foundation Hospital. We got there before the lady who was supposed to check us in! At least I had the waiting room to myself for most of the morning. The little volunteer lady still turned the TV on, however. LOUDLY. So I pulled out my trusty Kindle and my earplugs and watched some more Teen Wolf.

Marty did great. He was out of surgery in about two and a half hours. But once he got into recovery, he started to complain about pain. So, they pumped him full of codeine -- which makes him throw up. And he did. In fact, he spent most of the day sleeping and being sick. Finally they gave him some Phenergan, which stopped his nausea. Then he wanted French fries.

I did stay with him for most of the night. I intended to stay the whole night. But my blue chair at RPH wasn't NEARLY as comfortable as the one I slept in for five nights at Ochsner. So, at about 1:30 a.m., I went home to sleep in my own bed. He was in good hands.

July 16, Day 14: Lora, meanwhile, is still having a rough time. Her ribs are hurting her tremendously. She can't sit up in a chair at all, can't sit at the table, and the quickie showers we took have been very painful. And her bandage is in shreds. I've taped it as best I can. I sent an email to the doctor's office (just one of the MANY things I love about Ochsner and Dr. Waldron! He actually answers them too!) and they asked if I could come in on Wednesday. I agree gladly. She had back-to-back appointments scheduled with the two surgeons on Thursday and I was trying to figure out how -- and if -- this child would survive a trip to Ochsner and to Baptist Hospital, with stays in two waiting rooms, in one day.

Her physical therapist came in the morning too. She and I then got creative to give Lora a bath. I brought my anti-gravity lawn chair in from the pool (and looked longingly at the beautiful blue water...) and put it next to the tub. Then we got Lora in it and had her hang her head over the side so I could wash her hair. Hey. It worked. We sponged the rest. Getting her dressed was a huge ordeal as well. She has to go braless, which she did not like at all.

Then I packed the passenger seat with pillows and we headed off. It wasn't too bad. But once we got to the clinic, she got worse. She got dizzy walking in and had to sit down, and her ribs hurt so bad she had to lie down on the bench to wait for them to call her. I was worried to death.

But the visit went well. Dr. Kang was there, along with another resident I didn't know (not the stunningly handsome one from the hospital, though, darn it). They admitted they had read this blog and watched the slide show and were going to give Dr. Handsome a hard time about it. Hey. Mom's have to find their moments when they can, you know?

They checked out her incision (nice), asked if she had pooped yet (yep) and some other questions. Told her she could shower! (Yay!) We discussed the rib pain and Dr. Waldron decided to change her from Valium to Flexeril. He also suggested she get a lumbar corset to help stabilize things.

So, on the way home we made a stop at an orthopedics store and they fitted her for a corset. It's pretty much the kind you see in Gone With The Wind, but with velcro. The nice man put her in it and tightened her all up and she felt great. She actually sat on the little sofa with no pain. But on the way home in the car, it started to bother her, so I unsnapped it. Now, I can't get it back on her. It's a good think the Flexeril worked!

After a nap, I headed off to check on my other patient, who was having a party in his room with his buddies.

July 17, Day 15: We are officially two weeks post op! And what a good stay it started out to be! First, Lora woke up and said she had no pain. She had taken her Percocet at 4 a.m., then nothing else. She was content with just some Advil. Yay!) Also, she was able to shower on her own. (Yay!) (I did shave her legs). Surgeon No. 2 saw in the computer system that we saw Dr. Waldron on Wednesday, realized he was redundant and had his nurse call us to cancel (Yay!) Also, patient No. 2 is coming home today! (Yay!)

I got Daniel to come with with Lora so I could go get Marty. Got to the hospital at about 1 p.m. The problem was, he did not leave until after 6 p.m. The doctor was in surgery and didn't get to see him until 4 p.m. Then, after telling us it would be about 10 minutes, it took TWO FRICKEN HOURS for them to get his discharge ready, at which time the nurse came in and repeated everything the doctor had just told us.... I was livid.

Then came another trip to HELL -- also known as CVS pharmacy. Marty's friend Bill drove me there to drop off his prescriptions, then we drove back to LaPlace to Big Lot's to buy him a chair with an ottoman for his Cave Room (where he will be spending the next four weeks or so). Then we drove back to the drug store where, his drugs weren't ready. Really? Really. That place is going to make me go postal one day.

By the time I got both my patients drugged up and tucked into bed, I was too tired to move.

So, I guess this story is going to get pretty boring now, so I won't be updating it much -- except for milestones. Lora's, not Marty's.

The whole reason I wanted to do this, and Lora agreed to let me, is because I know there are other moms and dads out there who are about to go through this process. Maybe this will help ease their fears. I hope it doesn't scare them to death.

There are bumps along the way, but I think Lora's road to recovery has been fairly normal. She's still very impatient, wanting to know when it won't hurt anymore, when she'll be able to do things the way she wants to do them. She gets weepy sometimes and throws herself a pity party. That's all normal too.

I want to say that Pediatric Orthopedist Dr. Sean Waldon is the bomb. He was gentle and kind and funny and patient and let me ask all my stupid questions without making me feel stupid. And he read my blog. Dr. William Kang was pretty cool too, except at 5:30 a.m. And nurse Hannah is the absolute best. I can't say enough about the Ochsner experience -- except for the radiology department, which needs to get its act together.

I also want to send a shout out to the Facebook group Scoliosis Parents Support: Strength in the Curve. It's made up of a bunch of parents from around the world whose kids have been through it or are about to. Those (mostly) women were enormous help to me, telling me what questions to ask, what to watch out for, what to ask for, what to bring to the hospital and giving me endless tips,  and suggestions. They were all there with me on July 3, holding my hands through cyber space and praying for my daughter. And we all rallied around the mom in England whose daughter did not have a successful surgery (but I am happy to report that she is moving her legs and sitting up now). I hope to remain an active part of it to help the next moms.

I was absolutely terrified of this thing. I didn't sleep for months. I had a bonafide panic attack the week before. I didn't want to do it. I didn't want her to have to go through it. It broke my heart. But we came through to the other side in one piece. One bionic piece. We made it. And I am so glad it's over.

Lora's July, 2014 growth chart ...

And here is the guy who got her all straightened out! Dr. Sean Waldron. Can't say enough good  things about this guy!
We are so blessed and forever thankful for him. 
Lora's BEFORE on the left. After 6 months on the right. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bent Wings -- A Scoliosis Journey: The Countdown

So we're midway through the summer break.

Kids across the land are staying up late, sleeping until noon (or later) and (some are) packing in as much fun in a day as they can. Movies, parties, sleepovers, trips to the mall...

Well, not my kid. She's packing as much TV watching, music listening and macaroni eating as she can between the hours of 4 p.m. and 6 a.m., staying up until dawn and sleeping until late in the afternoon.

And the big Fourth of July weekend is coming up. Families across the land are planning bar-b-ques and luaus. Some packing up for trips to the beach, to the mountains, to the Caribbean or to Disney.

But not us. We'll be headed to Ochsner Foundation Hospital.

We are three days out from Lora's long-awaited surgery to repair her Scoliosis -- 48 degree curve. We will arrive on the second floor (Same Day Surgery) at 5 a.m. on Thursday, where a team of surgeons will fuse my daughter's spine from the third Thoracic vertebra to about the fourth Lumbar vertebra. T3-L4. I won't get more graphic than that. I could. Believe me, I could. But I won't. Not out loud.

In my brain, however, it's all happening now. Over and over again. I have imagined every moment, every scenario (yes, even the unimaginable ones). I can't stop thinking about what will happen, what could happen, what might happen, what should happen, what I think will happen.

Believe it or not, I was worse before last week. Before last week, I had entrusted (mentally) my daughter's well-being to The Surgeon, the cocky arrogant one who wasn't very forthcoming with information and made us (well, me) feel stupid for asking the stupid questions. We didn't doubt his abilities, however, because, well, neither did he.

Then we learned that on Lora's team will be Dr. Waldron, the young baby-faced orthopedist who first treated Lora, who braced her and kept tabs on her. We always did like him and he always treated Lora like a person in the room, not a piece of furniture. Dr. Waldron's nurse actually called us to tell us this and invited us to meet with him to ask any questions (!).

So we met with him on Tuesday. And I got more information out of him in five minutes than I got in three visits with the other guy. We talked drugs and anesthesia and cuts and scars and sutures and pre-op and post-op. I was able to ask him all the questions I wanted, without feeling like I was a fool -- or a pill. And it went a long, long way to soothing this frazzled mother's nerves. I actually slept through the night!

OK. Once.

Yeah. Now I'm back to waking up in the middle of the night, worrying -- NOT about what could go wrong. That's not it. I'm worried more about what I already know will happen -- the horrible pain she will be in, about which she has no idea. The immobility. The drugs. The effects the drugs will have on her. The indignities about to be heaped upon an extremely modest 13-year-old girl.

We've done our best to keep ourselves occupied. We went to the beach, we had a few pool parties and bar-b-ques, she's had a few sleepovers, Coach and I went on our annual trip to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches. I have made myself get up at 7 a.m. to walk and sweat in the Louisiana humidity then spent whole days floating in my pool.

Lora, meanwhile, has slept. And eaten. And had her BFF over. And had a three-day sleepover with my BFF and her BFFs while her parents went to Natchitoches. And watched The Office. And forced me to binge-watch Teen Wolf. And convinced me to let her cut off all her hair. And tried false eyelashes. And is trying to convince us that she needs a new iPhone before she goes to the hospital. And found out that her OMG FAVORITE BAND The Arctic Monkeys are coming to Voodoo Fest. And got me to promise to take her. And discovered that her grandmother still has an old turntable and records in her house!!! And learned that getting blood drawn doesn't hurt all that much. .

It's been a pretty good summer... Even if we only have three days left...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Trouble in paradise

When my husband Marty and I first started dating some 22 years ago, there were those who said we'd never last.

He certainly wasn't what I was looking for in a husband -- the tall, dark, handsome guy with rock hard abs and a well-diversified 401K. No, Marty was short, kind of roundish, had more of a keg instead of a 6-pack, and he was paying child support to his ex-wife for his two kids.

But he was cute and funny and he liked to dance and he thought I was pretty cool, being a trailblazing female sports writer and all. He wasn't one of the guys who asked me how I could write about football when I never played it. And he thought it was cool that I got to go to really good baseball games. He even offered to go with me to one, then stood me up.

But we ended up together somehow, and we've shot down all those naysayers.  This December we will celebrate 20 years of wedded bliss. And it has been mostly bliss. When I tell you that I can remember exactly two arguments between us, I am not exaggerating. Two. I can't tell you what they were about, though. I just know that one time I stormed out and, with no place really to go, I drove myself to Walmart and refused to answer my cell phone for a couple of hours.

This is why we do not have a reality show

We have been this perfect little sports couple, he the coach, me the sports writer, both of us going to games, watching games, talking about games, reliving games planning our lives around games -- both his and mine.

Until now.

As you probably know by now, my husband decided that the 2014 high school baseball season was going to be his 25th and final one. He announced this big decision last year, rather innocuously on his own little blog, but then it blew up into 5, 6, 10 and front page news. And then he got to turn the final season into his very own Farewell Tour, which also garnered 5, 6, 10 and front page news.

Yeah, well now it's over. The season and the career. And, if things keep going the way they are, our marriage soon will be over too. It's only been two months and the man is driving me crazy. He is coach without a team, a man without a mission, a retiree without a hobby. He doesn't play golf, or cook, or garden, or clean the house, he doesn't have a girlfriend and he isn't handy. That means he's just IN MY WAY.

You see,  I have a routine. I get up every morning at 7 a.m. At 7:30, I go walk. At 8:30 ish I come back all hot and sweaty and all I want to do is sit down and cool off. I usually do that by sitting at my computer and seeing what's going on in the world. But since he's RETIRED, The Coach has taken over MY computer. I come home and he's in my chair, all cool and collected and relaxed, sipping coffee and cruising the Internets. Not only that, he's watching some stupid YouTube video that you and I and the rest of the world watched and enjoyed some two years ago, while he was playing baseball. And he wants me to watch it now.

Coach: Come see this cool video of this whale being rescued by fishermen!
Me: I've seen it.
Coach: Really? When?
Me: Oh.. a few years ago. Want me to tell you how it ends?
Coach: %*#(%*^

Later in the day he watches baseball, non-stop, on the MLB Network. But now that he's a coach without a team, a manager without men, he has no one to talk baseball with except me. I don't really mind. I do love baseball. It's the film sessions I can do without.

Coach: (remote in hand) Watch this play. (Rewinds the game)
Me: 0_0
Coach: See where the third baseman is? (Rewinds again.) He's playing the lines! (Rewinds again.) Why is he guarding the lines in this situation? (Rewinds again) He just cost his team the game!!
Me: 0_0

OK. Truth be told, things did get a little better last week. My husband is coaching a group of college-age boys in a local summer league. Many of the players are his own former players who went on to star at LSU, UNO, ULL and other places. They're some good ones. Being a coach again put a little extra hitch in his giddyup - bum knee and all.  He's back to making lineups and talking pitching and running off to games. Unfortunately, there are no practices to run off to, but it's enough to get him out of the house a few times and out of my way. He's happy. I'm happy. And we're not tripping over each other as much.

Our marriage is saved! (Maybe.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bent Wings -- A Scoliosis Journey: Awareness


Over the course of my nearly 30 years as a sports writer, I have interviewed thousands of teenagers.  I've seen tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, not-so-skinny ones, massively huge ones.

I've seen kids with the most amazing eyes, the prettiest hair, the straightest teeth. And some really, really cute boys.

Just a few weeks ago, I interviewed a winning pitcher after a baseball game. This one was a peach-fuzz freshman, tall, lanky, skinny even, with hard bony angles and not much muscle. And as I stood a good foot below him, holding UP my digital recorder and asking him questions about his stellar performance, I noticed something new, something I never thought to even look for before.

He has scoliosis.

I noticed immediately that his shoulders were crooked. One was much higher than the other.  And because I've known his coach for a long time, I later whispered to him, "Get that kid checked for scoliosis. His shoulders are crooked."

The coach didn't laugh, didn't scoff. He gave me a knowing look. He knows I know.

Over-sharer that I am, pretty much the whole world knows that my daughter, The Snarky Teen, has "significant" scoliosis that we hope will be corrected next month with spinal fusion surgery. She was diagnosed  -- by her regular pediatrician at her annual physical -- at the age of 11 with a 31 degree curve. Despite wearing a Boston Brace for more than a year, her curve increased to 47 degrees. That was in October. It's probably more than that by now.

Lora's X-rays, she went from 31 degrees to 47 degrees in less than two years. 
But you don't need her X-rays to see it. Not if you look closely. And not if you happen to see her in a swimming suit, or in fitted clothing, or a dress, or horizontal stripes. Most people don't see it, though. Not unless they know what they're looking for.


We took this photo (with her permission) this evening expressly for this blog post. She looked at it and was stunned. She has never seen herself before, not like this.

"Oh my God!" she said. "I didn't know it was that bad! That's crazy!"

Once you do know what you're looking for, though, you start to see it. No, you start to SEE it. Everywhere. In the young pitcher on the mound, in the tall girl waiting at the concession stand, in the photograph of the supermodel doing a simple yoga pose with her young daughter, in your elderly mother-in-law.

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. And Lora Leigh and I have agreed that we should use her journey to help educate others. So, she has agreed to let the world see her X-rays and her back, and we will post about her journey through surgery and her recovery. We know -- I KNOW -- there are other moms and kids out there who are as terrified as I am. (She's not.)

According to the National Scoliosis Society, only 2 to 3 percent of the population is affected by scoliosis. It can and does affect people of all ages, from infant to the elderly, but females are 8 times more likely to develop scoliosis. There is no definitive cause -- some say it's genetic, some believe it's caused by a miscommunication in the brain. There is no true cure. Some doctors believe in the braces, some in exercise, yoga and stretching, some say those do no good. Some say surgery is the only recourse. Some say surgery is purely cosmetic.

As hard as it is to imagine that surgeon picking up a scalpel and cutting into my child on July 3, it's just as hard to look at that photo of her. It's also hard to believe that she is not in excruciating pain. She is just beginning to experience some discomfort when she sits or stands for long periods, and her legs do hurt. We hope and pray that all of that will be alleviated soon.

And we hope to help spread the word about scoliosis.

These are the things to look for:
Uneven shoulders
Uneven hips
A curve or "S" in the spine
One side of back is higher than the other in bent position.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Bent Wings -- A Scoliosis Journey: Postponed

I swear this is true.

I was sitting at the computer, trying to concentrate on ... something ... But my mind began to wander, as it frequently does, to her surgery.  June 24th. The date on all our calendars. I just happened to glance at the lower corner of my screen to check the date. May 19th. More than a month to go. How will I make it?

Then the phone rang.

It was the surgeon's office, his assistant, wanting to know if it was OK if we postpone the surgery to July 3rd.

And I felt the punch in the gut.

To him, it's probably like postponing his dentist appointment, his haircut, his pedicure. To me? It's another nine days to fret, to worry, to agonize, to imagine the worst, to rationalize, the justify to those who don't understand, to figure out our life, to hope for the best, to try not to think about it (yeah, right). And I do all those things, all the time.

"Is that OK," the young woman on the phone asked.

"Do we have a choice?" I replied.

She chuckled.

"I guess so," I said -- even though it means she probably won't be healed enough for the first day of school, which is August 11th. Even though every day I look at her, I see more and more of a dramatic lean. Even though she complained just the other day about her back hurting while she was sitting at her sister's graduation; then again while standing at her weekly singing lesson. Even though I am worried to death about all of it, and can burst into tears at the mere idea of that man cutting my daughter open.

 I wasn't sure how she would react. While I am a nervous-wreck over the whole thing, my Snarky Teenager seems completely unaffected by the whole thing. She's not scared, not nervous, not afraid.  She doesn't talk about it, doesn't ask questions. She did watch a few YouTube videos I've found that were posted by other kids. That's enough for her. When anyone asks her about it, she just replies, "It's going to make me better."

I've tried to get her to join the online support groups, become pro-active.  She wants no part. I was actually surprised to see that she had drawn kind of a funny picture of her spine on her art portfolio from school.

This is the cover of Lora's art portfolio from school.

"I don't need a support group, Mom," she says. "You do."

She's right. And I have one on Facebook.

Still, I sat her down. Held her hand. And told her that her surgery had been postponed.

"Good!" she said. "I was going to miss the start of Teen Wolf."

Well, there ya go.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bent Wings -- A Scoliosis Journey

In January of 2012, just after she turned 11, Lora Leigh's pediatrician noticed that her posture was "off."  She did some routine tests and ordered an X-ray. A few weeks later, the doctor called to tell us that her suspicions had been confirmed. Lora Leigh had "pretty significant" scoliosis.

We were sent off to a pediatric orthopedist, Dr. Sean Waldron at Ochsner Hospital, who did more confirmation. Scoliosis. 31 degrees.

She's an artist. She added her own touch. 

A few weeks later, Lora was fitted for a hard plastic brace -- a Thoraco-LumboScral-Orthosis (TLSO) Brace, also known as a "Boston Brace."

She wore this contraption for roughly 12 hours a day, every day. After trying to wear it to school once or twice, she elected to wear it mostly at night while she slept. It was an adjustment, but she did pretty good.

Subsequent check-ups with Dr. Waldron showed a slight increase, but not enough to worry about, he said. At one point he even said, "I don't think she'll need surgery."

But that changed in 2014. She outgrew the brace. Before getting another one, we went back to Dr. Waldron. Another  X-ray showed a significant increase in her curve -- to about 43 degrees.

X-ray, August of 2013

Now we're talking surgery.

We met with the surgeon-to-be, Dr. Joseph Zavatsky, at the former Mercy Baptist/Ochsner in October of 2013. He agreed that surgery was necessary, but -- much to our relief -- said we could wait until the summer of 2014. It was a huge relief to us because, at the time, my husband and I were the caretakers of his elderly mother, who had moved in with us in October of 2012. She needed full-time care and went to dialysis three times a week. We would have to tag-team between her and Lora. And we could not imagine how. As it was, I had to go to that first appointment with the surgeon without Marty.

So, we waited. In the meantime, I -- ever being the inquisitor -- hit the Internet. I read everything I could find on Scoliosis, its causes, its treatments, exercises that were considered good, exercises that were considered bad. I talked to people who had the surgery and to those who did not. I searched and read until I confused even myself.

Why, I wondered, did doctors automatically say surgery  once the curvature reaches the 40s? What are the worst case scenarios? What are the best case scenarios? What quality of life will she have if she doesn't have surgery? If she does? How will she feel about having an ugly scar down the length of her back? I mean, let's face it. Someday she will want to take her clothes off for someone. Will she be self-conscious? Ashamed? Proud as hell?

I worried myself into a frenzy. With the mother-in-law, my unemployment, troubles within my family and Lora's impending surgery, I found myself a counselor -- and a Facebook support group with other moms. And I tried not to think about it.

Dr. Zavatsky did want an MRI done on Lora to check on the curve and make sure there was no "pathological cause." Yeah. We set it up for Dec. 26. On Dec. 24th, the hospital called to do our pre-registration and to tell us our co-pay would be $1,600. I had to cancel it.

In February of 2014, my mother-in-law Jane passed away at the age of 83.  A few days before the funeral, I took my daughter shopping for a suitable outfit. She decided she wanted to wear a black dress. We found a cute one at Cato, and she went into the dressing room -- without me, of course. At 13, she's too cool to have mom see her undressed anymore

When she came out to show me, I was stunned. I wanted to tell her to go right back in there and turn back into a little girl. She had heels on, as well, and looked so gorgeous and tall and regal.

Then she turned around to go back into the dressing room, and I was stunned again.

The hem of her dress was crooked. The waistline of the dress was crooked. One hip was obviously much higher than the other and one shoulder blade protrudes much more than the other. Here I am worrying about a scar? I felt so horrible.

With our sole focus now on our family and our daughter, I set up another appointment with Dr. Zavatsky in April -- sort of a lets-get-reacquainted meeting. With my husband, this time. And the Snarky Teenager, who seems completely non-plussed by the whole thing.

And I went armed with questions (thanks to my fellow Scoliosis moms). And he sort of answered them. He explained that there is no chiropractic, no physical therapy treatment to correct Lora's curvature. She can live without surgery, but likely will have all kinds of other complications -- breathing troubles, pain, possible paralysis, not to mention the physical deformity. He tried to explain the surgery as best he could and what it would mean for her.

Yeah, he was arrogant. Yes, he seemed perturbed that I asked the questions. But he didn't put me off. I even asked him, "Do you make pretty scars?" (And the med students with him were very nice.) Lora says he was "Confident."

We left with a new attitude. Let's Do This. And a date: June 24th. And she had her MRI last week (with a nice new payment plan set up).

Not everyone agrees this is the best thing for Lora. Are there other things we could try? Certainly. But the ones I know of are not covered by medical insurance and I don't have thousands of dollars hanging around. (Have I mentioned that I am unemployed?) Is there a possibility that things can go wrong? Certainly, as in anything. (Just read my post about Parker.) But I have read enough success stories and enough should-have-had surgery stories to believe that we have made the right decision.

And Lora agrees. She wants to have the surgery. She doesn't talk about it, but I'm sure she is self-conscious about her body. A few weeks ago we had weather warm enough to get in the pool for a while. She came outside wearing a two-piece suit -- and I was stunned again by her body. She is straight on one side, curved on the other. She can't stand with both feet flat on the ground; she has to bend one leg. There is a very large hump in her back.
Lora on a recent trip to the beach.

We are fortunate that she is in no pain.

We all came home that day and, of course, I hit the computer again. I found this video, which is an excellent animation of the surgery that will be performed on Lora Leigh. Marty and I both watched it and nodded. Now we have a picture in our brains.

I found another video a short time later, of a young girl, about the same age as Lora, with the same curve. She and her mother did a video blog of their journey. This one gave all of us great comfort.  It also inspired Lora and me to blog about our own journey. She is a budding photographer, I am a Storyteller. We will tell our story here. Our hope is to help other moms and dads and Scoliosis Warriors as they travel this path. It's terrifying. It's overwhelming. It's nothing fun. But together, we can get through it.

                                                   scoliosis... aww I love this <3 thanks to all the people who helped me through my surgery!! @Philip Allen @Grace Nenneman