January 13, 2006 - Michael is diagnosed with scoliosis.
Mike had been complaining of back pain for a few months. At his 8 year check-up in October 2005, I mentioned it to his pediatrician. We did the scoliosis check then - just as routine. Nothing out of the ordinary. Figured he was having growing pains or just repeating the complaints of his aged parents!
However, on January 11 Michael seemed to be in real pain while trying to sit through the Wednesday night church service. Again, I didn't really know what to do with these complaints. We're not the type to run to the doctor for every little ache and pain and, besides, he just checked out fine 3 months before.
On Thursday or Friday, Michael was hurting. I gave him a hug and one side of his back felt a bit swollen. "Pulled muscle," I thought. To make sure everything was ok, I called the doctor to make an appointment. Neither Eric or I thought it was anything - just wanted to assure Michael that everything was ok.
So, late Friday morning, January 13, I took Michael to the doctor and filled him in on what was going on. He had Michael bend over so he could look at his back. What I saw made me sick to my stomach immediately. He had a huge hump on the left side of his back. I couldn't believe it. The doctor said he was pretty sure it was scoliosis, but he needed to have x-rays done right away. We were to return with the pictures as soon as they were developed.
I couldn't move. I literally had to put my head between my knees as the room was spinning so fast. How could I have missed this? I messed up HUGE this time around!
I called Eric and told him I couldn't do this by myself. I needed him to come to the hospital with us. As I went back to pick him up, I stopped in the house to make sure our babysitter could stay a while longer. My life had just turned upside down.
Michael? Oh, he was taking the whole thing in stride. No big deal. I'm trying not to pass out and he's thinking it's kind of cool to have x-rays taken.
I waited in the waiting room while Eric went with Mike for his first of MANY pictures throughout the coming years. My mind went crazy. What if there were tumors? What if it was more than "just" scoliosis? What if he had cancer? I began to pray that it WAS "just" scoliosis.
The x-rays were developed and the three of us went back to the pediatrician's office. He took them out of the big envelope and held them up to the light. I wish I could post those pictures here. Mike's back looked like an "S". I'm not kidding. And, it got worse in the next 2 1/2 years!
Michael took one look at the pictures and said, "Um, isn't my back supposed to be straight? Wow!" He was actually more IMPRESSED than he was nervous!
Can I just stop here and say that God has blessed us with the most wonderful pediatrician EVER? This man referred us to the BEST pediatric orthopedic surgeon in the area (possibly in the state). That's not just our opinion - that's the opinion of other doctors and people in the medical profession. Our pediatrician made the appointment for us knowing that if we were to call, Michael wouldn't be seen for a few weeks. He needed to be seen almost immediately. Our doctor ALWAYS has referred our children to the best specialists, has ALWAYS acted quickly when needed, but has never over-reacted. If you live near us and are looking for a great doctor, I highly recommend ours.
Anyway...Eric, Mike, and I went out to McD's for lunch. I was trying SO hard not to cry in front of Michael. I didn't want to scare him. I didn't know how much longer I could keep the tears, so I told Mike I had to return his grandma's call and then I'd follow he and his dad inside. After I called her, I allowed myself to shed some tears.
We knew this whole thing was a result of his NF (so the tumor scare was a real possibility...I wasn't really too far off with that concern). We had never discussed his NF too much. Now we were going to have to give him a little more information. Everything seemed so overwhelming. "Lord, please give us the strength to go through this and the wisdom to help Michael!"
When I went into the restaurant, I thought I had it all together. But, I just had to look at my son and I had to fight the tears all over again. Eric was explaining to Michael why he had scoliosis. Explaining how God chose for him to have NF. That it was something that God was going to use in his life. Michael took all that information with faith greater than I had. He already knew he belonged to God and he seemed pleased that God had a special plan for him.
All the while Eric was talking to Michael, I couldn't speak afraid that the tears would flow. So many thoughts were running through my head: Why did I wait so long to take him to the doctor's? If I had taken him earlier, maybe we could have gotten control of this thing. That hump was unbelievable! That curve - my baby was damaged! He'd never be the same! What have I done? I failed!!!
Right then, Michael turned to me and said, "It's a good thing we found it now when we did. Just think how much worse it could have been!"
That's when I had to turn my head and just cry. Eric knew I was blaming myself. Michael was looking on the bright side - just like he did through most of his ordeal. Oh, there were some down times (the time he got his brace and couldn't even eat his dinner; when he would have a growth spurt making the curve worse and causing tremendous pain; the recovery from his surgery which you can read about here, here, here, here,and here), but through most of it, Michael always remembered that God had a plan for him and he kept his eyes on his Father, trusting in Him.
I know this is long, but I want to quickly tell you what the surgeon said on that first visit. First off, he subtly suggested that Michael leave the room with me while he gave the information to Eric. I knew it was bad when Eric barely spoke on the way home and I could barely choke down my dinner waiting to hear what he had been told. Michael just went about his life, not concerned. Later that evening, through the first tears I had seen my husband cry in years, Eric told me that the doctor told him that Michael would probably need surgery in 2-3 years. That his back would never grow any more after that surgery. That there was a possibility of Michael dying or becoming permanently paralyzed during that surgery. In four days time, we had a diagnosis, a prognosis, and some scary possibilities put on our shoulders. But, as Eric had tears streaming down his face, he helped me to see our opportunity to offer Michael on the altar, just as Abraham offered his son Isaac. God would choose to do His will.
We put our son on that altar. God was gracious. We may have to put Michael, or another child, on that altar once again. May God continue to give us the strength and grace that He did beginning on that day - Friday, January 13, 2006.