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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sometimes Doctors Are Wrong

Placing one foot in front of the other, I've climbed to higher lengths. Reaching beyond my own limitations, to show my inner strength. No obstacle too hard, for this warrior to overcome. I'm just a man on a mission, to prove my disability hasn't won.
-- Robert M. Hensel

When you first find out your precious baby has spina bifida, your world is thrown upside down.  You search for answers, only to find that there really are no good answers, because all kids are so very different.  Looking back, most of us feel like we wish we had known then what we know now, because we would not have worried or shed tears.  We would have known everything would be ok.  The advice of well-intenioned doctors just seems to make it all worse.  Instead of hearing about all the things our children WILL do, we get the laundry list of what they won't.  And the funny thing is, most of the time, they do!  Our children shine!  Don't get me wrong, we love our doctors.  We covet their wisdom and advice, and we put our children's care, and lives, in their hands, but that does not mean that they are always right.  It does not mean that they can predict what our children will be like.  Unfortunately, some lives are ended early because of the picture that is painted of what their life "will" be. 

Here are some stories of how our children (and adults living with spina bifida) are redifining spina bifida every day.  Stories of children and adults showing the doctors who said they wouldn't, and the world who said they couldn't, all that they CAN do. 

I choose not to place "DIS", in my ability.
-- Robert M. Hensel

Our doctors said Alyssa wouldn't have bowel or bladder function. But my barely 2-year-old is currently potty training at the same level if not earlier than her "normal" friends. It's not TYPICAL for a child with Spina Bifida to have that function, but in her case, those particular nerves must have somehow been spared from damage.
Any time I hear "she can't" or "she won't", I remember the ending of the story, "Why a Bee?": The bee was the biggest problem of all, so the teacher sent her to see Doctor Owl for testing. Doctor Owl said the bee's wings were too small for flying and they were in the wrong place. The bee never saw Doctor Owl's report, so she just went ahead and flew anyway.

No doctor can tell you exactly what your child will be able to do, whether your child is born with a disability or not. Medical journals can spit out statistics, but they can't factor in a child's level of determination. Doctor Owl may be well educated, and he may have a lot of fancy initials behind his name, but he doesn't know my stubborn little bee.
The doctors said that I could never do gymnastics but here I am with my

When we received the spina bifida diagnosis, our world stopped. The first few things we heard out of the doctor's mouth was "Your son has spina bifida, he will have no quality of life. When would you like to abort." That statement still mortifies me!

Our son Tanner not only has an awesome quality of life, but he is happy living it! This kid never ceases to amaze us as his parents. When there is a will, there is a way. And Tanner always finds that way. :)

After Tanner was born we were told things like.... He won't ever crawl, stand, or take steps.... let alone walk. Tanner has been crawling for over a year now, is standing with assistance, and cruising along the furniture! He is also learning to use a mini walker.

Tanner is the light in our lives, and we would not change him for anything!

After we got the diagnosis I was sitting in my OBGYN's office waiting to be seen and she came in and asked me how I was. I told her "fine". And she looked at me and said, "No you're not. I read your chart and know the diagnosis you received." I told her that yes I am scared to death but we will make it. She said, "You may be fine now but just wait until she's born. Your life is going to be really hard then."

Really? When I look at this face I don't see "hard life". I see one of the most beautiful gifts a mother could ever receive. She is a blessing to this world. Not a burden. EVER!
The doctors told us our baby's life "wasn't viable" and that we should deliver early and let him die (i.e. terminate).Bryce is now 20 years old, plays a mean swing beat on the drums, has a superb jazz CD collection (of which he has memorized all the liner notes--need to know when a song was written? recorded? by whom? Just ask Bryce!), emails and Facebooks his friends constantly (also having memorized all their birthdays, all 284 of them), and is an artist at a studio for outside artists, selling his paintings for over $100 each. I'd say he's not just "viable" but thriving, blessing and enriching all who know him.

The doctors told us our nightmare was coming true.
But instead...we got the little boy of our dreams.

The doctors said he would be "incompatible with life."
But the truth is, our lives are incomprehensible without him.

My doctor told me that Nickolas would negatively impact my daughter's life and would be a burden on our family.
HA! I don't think so!
My parents were told I wouldn't live overnight, and the humane thing to do was to let me go. I'll be 28 in August. I think I'm a little past my expiration date!

The doctors told my parents I wouldn't go to mainstream school. I now have a degree and nearly have a diploma too.

At 19 weeks pregnant we found out we were expecting our second little boy- mister Logan Blake- but we weren't expecting to be told that they detected an open neural tube defect... Nearly weeks later and at almost 21 weeks- we received the official diagnosis of Logan's Spina Bifida and the detection of Hydrocephalus on his brain. God had to have blessed us with a good doctor that day because instead of being pushy and telling what our child would not do- instead he told us the possibilities of what our child might not be able to do and after we decided against termination he immediately sat us down and informed us of what would happen when he was born and if he would need a shunt...

Today- our Logan is 2 years, 8 months and thriving!! His smile is captivating, he has the best sense of humor, he is rolling all over the place, commando crawling, babbling up a storm, pushing up on his hands & knees, he spoon feeds himself & will sit up on his own for a few minutes... These are things that we didn't think he would ever be able to do or questioned when he would do and he continues to amaze us daily at whatever new thing he learns & we thank God for our miracle....

Doctors told me my baby would never walk, talk or "be normal" when he was diagnosied with Spina Bifida when I was 17 weeks pregant. Well they were WRONG... really, really WRONG! It might have taken over 3 years, but he talks non stop now and there is no mute button on him! It might have taken 4 1/2 years, but he walks just fine thank you very much. And who wants to be "normal" anyways? But I wonder what those same doctors would say to see that same little boy SURFING 10 years latter?? The little baby who I was told would never walk not only walks, but is a happy surfer dude who be 11 in the blink of an eye!
My parents were told (back in the day) I would basically "be a vegetable, mentally and physically." I'm a college grad, teach adjunct at a university, run my own business, and am married with three kids.

They said I'd never walk, but I can climb a ladder
Jaici 4 1/2 yrs old
As a 9th grader I was doing terribly in English in school. After a "D" for the 2nd grading period, my parents went to see the teacher to see what could be done to improve. Because of my CP, I am unable to manually write and was trained early to use an electric typewriter (I know, so old school). During the course of their meeting (my parents and said English teacher), my mother expressed the concern that unless my English grades improved I wouldn't be able to get into college. The English teacher was aghast, "College ! I gave him paper and pencil and he can't even write!" College indeed ! I have a BS and MS in Math and a PhDin Chemistry (although I'm not a chemist).

- Mike
(note- Mike lives with Cerebral Palsy, not Spina Bifida, but has an amazing story that needs to be shared!  This picture is of him graduating with his PhD when he was 53!  What an inspiration!)
The doctors told me that i would be paralyzed from the waist down...I am now doing zumba and love it.
- Isabel

Here is a pic of Caitlin crawlingup the stairs.  They said she would never crawl up the stairs.  She has just reached the top in this picture.

At our first Ultrasound, we were told Emmett had Spina Bifida, Hydro, and clubbed foot. The forecast was stormy, and the more we read, the more we listened the worse it sounded. We were asked on that day if we wanted to keep the Baby. Both of us had no doubts. A year after his birth we were told to just put him in a caster seat, get him used to using the wheels, because he would never walk. A year later, our boy started to pull himself to stand, then a year after that, he started walking along with the assistance of a small plastic chair. The Physio told us he didn't have enough strength to hold himself up, she said he would need to wobble forward using the walker and a stander. 6 months later, he showed all of them (8 Doctors were taking pictures on their camera phones), everything halted while he walked down the hall and back again using just a walker. Now here we are 4 years after their grim outlook, Emmett is using KAFO's, and a walker. He is so proud and tall. He keeps going further daily.....Our boy is a tenacious angel, and we couldn't be prouder!! :)

The Doctors said Jazmine will never move her legs, that she will have mental retardation,that she will for sure need a shunt for hydrocephalus and catheters to help her urinate.

Now Jazmine is 21 months super smart, walks on her walker and stands up holding up to anything she finds on her way, no shunt and no catheters and we see all her doctors only once a year for follow ups( neuro, ortho and urologist)

After receiving our diagnosis, we went through the MOMS eval, hoping to learn more about Spina Bifida as well as the fetal surgery. The neurosurgeon (whom we still go to and love) said, "Based on his L2 lesion, even with the fetal surgery he WILL need a shunt, and he WILL use a wheelchair by the time he's in high school." At the time it was the end of the world and I didn't stop crying the rest of the day. (By the way, he is turning 5 on Friday and does not have a shunt.) The next day I spoke with an ethicist, and I told him that I had talked with a SB nurse who told me that she has a few patients who RUN into clinic. He stopped me and said, "She should not have told you that. That is not true. Your son will never run."


  And a few others....

When I was in 6th grade my Orthopedist told me that I couldn't run, ( I was on the school basketball team at the time!).


The doctors told my mom that I wouldn't live past the age of ten. I'm turning 26 in less than a month and I know have a college degree and a job. He also told my mother that my legs wouldn't grow. I was mostly legs till I hit my major growth spurt in my teens.  

You all hear a lot about my little Madi.  The doctors said she would never walk.  And she probably never will.... because I can't get her to slow down and stop jumping in her walker long enough to actually "walk", ha!! 

We, the one's who are challenged, need to be heard. To be seen not as a disability, but as a person who has, and will continue to bloom. To be seen not only as a handicap, but as a well intact human being.

-- Robert M. Hensel
If you want to share your child's story, I will happily add it :).  Just e-mail me your story and a photo or video at


Kim said...

wonderful, wonderful.... :*)

Chuck and Heather said...

Wow, I needed that today. ;) Thank you for such an inspiring post. I cried through the entire thing. Love it!! Thanks for including our Gwendolyn.

Summers Family said...

GREAT post! I loved seeing so many of our friends. your little ones are adorable.

Glad to have found your blog,

Mom to Jack (6), Benjamin (4) and Annabelle (almost 2 - has SB)

ainemc said...

Love it! This post should be shown to all parents who's babies have just been diagnosed. It shows exactly what spina bifida means! Maybe show it off to some doctors who told us all these things our kids would never do?

Frances said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE this! Even though I don't have this experience, as we didn't know about K's SB until after she was born, it's sad that so many are told these things. Even now, we've been lucky and the Drs. have never said she can't, won't etc. I know it could happen, but praying I will not hear those words.

sarah said...

jamie, i love love love this post. i was thinking about you earlier today, wondering how things are going, and now i'm so happy i hopped on over to check on you.
seriously, this gave me chills and i just want to share it with the world!!

Tiffany said...

This was so well put together!! Beautiful! I cried the whole way through! :-)

acmcginnis said...

oh!!!! I loved this post. So happy that you created it. I loved hearing such inspiration, but even more exciting the TRUTH!!! This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Mrs. B said...

Love it!