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.