Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Carter Luke Vermilyea - Part 13

We headed off to our appointment with Dr. McMath, the pediatric orthopedic doctor. We had seen him once before when Caroline had a possible leg length discrepancy, so we were somewhat familiar with him. I cannot say enough about how wonderful our visit with him was.

I was holding Carter when he walked in and he just sat in front of us and took a look at Carter’s arm. I was emotional right away, but did my best to not cry. Dr. McMath was gentle with Carter. He was kind to us, and had wonderful bedside manner. He right away told us a few possibilities as to why he was born missing his hand/forearm, generally referred to as a limb deficiency. First, it could have been something called Amniotic Band Syndrome. We had heard about that in the hospital as a possibility, but we didn’t really think that was it. Basically, there are bands that sometimes pull away from the uterine wall and float around in the amniotic fluid. Occasionally, those bands can wrap themselves around parts of the baby, and in turn stop blood supply to whatever is beyond the band. That part of the body just stops forming and basically unattaches. Dr. McMath did not believe that was what happened with Carter. Carter’s arm stops a little below the elbow and there are a few fingers that had begun to grow. If it had been an amniotic band, those fingers would not have been there at all.
The second thing that could have caused this is basically just a stop in growth. For whatever reason, sometimes growth just stops. There was a better word for it, but I can’t remember it. As Dr. McMath said, “It doesn’t matter how it happened, it won’t affect anything now or in the future. We just know that here is Carter, and he’s going to be just fine.” The doctor continued to talk to us about Carter’s arm. He took a few x-rays and found out several good things:
1. Carter’s humerus bone (upper arm) was completely there. It was the same as the other arm, and the shoulder joint was normal, also. This means that Carter should have normal growth in that bone, and normal range of motion with the shoulder.
2. The elbow joint looked normal.
3. The radius and ulna (lower arm bones) were not fused together, which means that he can rotate his elbow. Also, this might allow for some continued growth in that part of his arm, also.
4. Carter has 2 fingers, one a bit smaller than the other, and the bud of another finger that had started to form. It is amazing because these fingers, all 3, actually grow fingernails! Wow.

Dr. McMath said that all of these things were great signs that Carter was going to have a lot of use of his arm. I told him about Carter holding my hand in the hospital with his elbow joint, and he thought that was wonderful. He said we would be amazed at what he would be able to do. He also said that most kids like Carter don’t want prosthetics and that they would rather use their own arm to do things. He also said that some parents, when tiny fingers are present, sometimes want to have them surgically removed. He encouraged us not to, because they may be what allows him to do something later in life he would not have been able to do otherwise. This really comforted me. To be reminded that everything has a purpose.
Dr. McMath also told me never to worry that it was my fault. There was nothing I had done to cause this. I needed to hear that…I thought often in those days, “What if it’s my fault?”
Before we left, he encouraged us to come back in 6 months so he could monitor Carter’s growth. I asked him what we needed to do. How will he crawl? How will we teach him to do certain things and who is going to teach us how to teach him? Dr. McMath said, “All you need to do is love him. He will teach you way more than you can ever teach him. Just go and give him lots of love.”

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